CAIRO - AL-QAEDA leader Osama bin Laden threatens in a new audio tape to kill French citizens to avenge their country's support for the US-led war in Afghanistan and a new law that will ban face-covering Muslim veils.

In the tape obtained by satellite television station Al-Jazeera and then posted on its website on Wednesday, bin Laden said France was aiding the Americans in the killing of Muslim women and children in an apparent reference to the war in Afghanistan. He said the kidnapping of five French citizens in the African nation of Niger last month was a reaction to what he called France's oppression of Muslims.

'How can it be right that you participate in the occupation of our lands, support the Americans in the killing of our women and children and yet want to live in peace and security?' said bin Laden, addressing the French.

'It is a simple and clear equation: As you kill, you will be killed. As you capture, you will be captured. And as you threaten our security, your security will be threatened. The way to safeguard your security is to cease your oppression and its impact on our nation, most importantly your withdrawal from the ill-fated Bush war in Afghanistan.' The authenticity of the tape could not be immediately verified but the voice resembled that of the terror group leader on previous tapes determined to be genuine.

French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux told the parliament hours after the message was posted that the risk of a terror attack against the country was real and authorities' vigilance is 'total,' according to a report on newspaper El Figaro's website.

But he added that the threats 'would merely fit into the pattern of different threats that have already been made against our country and our citizens, at home and abroad. It currently appears that these comments dont't do more than justify our keeping up our response in the face of the terrorist threat.'

Bin Laden warns France