Coinciding with President Obama's fence mending trip to the Middle East, Osama bin Laden has released a new audio tape that threatens Americans. Bin Laden accuses Mr. Obama of ordering Pakistan to crack down on miltants, causing a refugee crisis that has seen some three million Muslims leave their homes.
The message was broadcast on Al-Jazeera Television at about the same time the President's plane was touching down in Saudi Arabia. The U.S. says it has not yet been able to verify that it is indeed bin Laden on the tape.
In April, with the backing of the Obama Administration, Pakistan launched an offensive to drive the Taliban out of Swat Valley, in Northwest Pakistan, after the militants abandoned a peace deal that gave them control of the area. On the tape, bin Laden said:
"Elderly people, children and women fled their homes and lived in tents as refugees after they have lived in dignity in their homes. Let the American people be ready to reap what the White House leaders have sown.
"Obama and his administration have sown new seeds to increase hatred and revenge on America. The number of these seeds is equal to the number of displaced people from Swat Valley."
Bin Laden claims the U.S. paid Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to start the crackdown. U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke labeled that "ludicrous." And at a news conference today with Zardari, Holbrooke said no one but the Taliban and al-Qaida is responsible for the crisis:
"This entire problem began with al-Qaida and its associates and everybody in the world knows that. It's silly indeed to respond to such a ludicrous charge"
President Obama is set to make a major speech in Cairo tomorrow, hoping to repair damage done to U.S.-Muslim relations over the course of the Bush presidency. A few hours before bin Laden's tape surfaced, his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, released a message of his own. In it, al-Zawahri criticized Mr. Obama's upcoming speech, saying it will not change the "bloody messages" the U.S. military is sending Muslims through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.