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Militant re-ignites cartoon row

Published: 8:45PM Friday May 12, 2006 Source: Reuters

A man believed to be a top al Qaeda militant who escaped from a US airbase in Afghanistan urged Muslims in an internet video to launch attacks in Europe as revenge for cartoons that lampooned the Prophet Mohammad.

A website often used by militants posted a video from a man identified as Abu Yahya al-Libi in which he called for Muslims to "send rivers of blood" down the streets of Denmark, Norway and France for publishing the cartoons that caused a global furore earlier this year.

Abu Yahya al-Libi is believed to be the alias of Libyan Mohammad Hassan who along with three other al Qaeda militants broke out of the Bagram Air Base last year.

Analysts say he is an influential militant preacher, better known for recruiting fighters than for actual combat.

"Believers, don't let your Prophet down and don't let our response to this grave insult just be protests and forums," said the man in the video which was dated February and posted on the Internet early on Friday.

"Denmark, Norway and France, you enemies of Islam, you have committed a grave offence against God and his Prophet," he said.

"Muslims, let's not be slack about this... hone your swords and shake the ground beneath their feet so they can feel our pain, let's send rivers of blood down their streets."

The authenticity of the tape could not be verified.

In an audio tape aired in April, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden called for people who ridiculed the Prophet to be killed.

Anger over the cartoons, which a Danish newspaper first published last year, outraged Muslims who consider drawings of the Prophet to be blasphemous.

The caricatures, which were reprinted in several Arab and European newspapers, sparked violent protests in which more than 50 people were killed.

Denmark's government has refused to apologise for the cartoons, citing freedom of speech.

In the 34-minute video tape, Libi said Muslims were not looking for an apology.

"We don't want an apology, we want to break their pride and to oppress them. You must fight them," said the man, who was sitting at a desk in what appeared to be a library of Islamic books with a rifle placed before him.

The four al Qaeda escapees are still at large despite a massive manhunt. In February, the same Web site posted a video tape purportedly from one of the fugitive militants in which he vowed to fight Americans in Iraq and the United States. 

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