Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden "has called for the withdrawal of French troops from Muslim lands in exchange for the release of hostages," Al Jazeera reports.
The network adds that:
"Referring to French hostages being held in Niger, the speaker on the tape, who sounded like Bin Laden, says their release depended on moves by their own government.
"He says France will pay dearly for its policy in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
" 'President Nicolas Sarkozy's refusal to remove his forces from Afghanistan is nothing but a green light for killing the French hostages,' Bin Laden says in the recording, broadcast on Al Jazeera on Friday."
The Associated Press notes that "extremist groups associated with al-Qaida are holding at least seven French hostages, including five in the Sahara Desert and two in Afghanistan."