March 20, 2008
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) – Osama bin Laden accused Pope Benedict XVI of helping in a “new Crusade” against Islam and warned of a “severe” reaction to European publications of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that insulted many Muslims.
Bin Laden’s new audiotape message raised concerns al-Qaida was plotting new attacks in Europe. Some experts said bin Laden, believed to be in hiding in the rugged Afghan-Pakistan border area, may be unable to organize an attack himself and instead is trying to fan anger and inspire his supporters to violence.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said bin Laden’s accusation that the pope has played a role in a worldwide campaign against Islam is “baseless.” Lombardi said the pope on several occasions has criticized the cartoons, first published in several European newspapers in 2006 and republished by Danish papers in February.
The pope angered many in the Muslim world in 2006, when he cited a medieval text that characterized some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as “evil and inhuman,” particularly “his command to spread by the sword the faith.”
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