A message purporting to be from al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and blasting the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad was released Wednesday, the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion into Iraq.
The audio message, directed at the European Union, warns of grave punishments in connection to the cartoons, which were originally published by a Danish newspaper in fall 2005 and sparked weeks of violent demonstrations across the Middle East and Asia.
Islamic law generally opposes any depiction of the prophet, even favorable, for fear it could lead to idolatry. The cartoons were reprinted in February.
The audio appeared on a militant web site that has carried al-Qaeda's messages in the past and bore the logo of the extremist group's media wing, al-Sahab, playing over a still image of bin Laden aiming an AK-47 rifle.
'You went overboard in your unbelief'
A voice that is allegedly bin Laden's calls the publishing of the "insulting drawings" a "new Crusade" against Islam and warns Europeans that a reaction will come.
"The response will be what you see and not what you hear, and let our mothers bereave us if we do not make victorious our messenger of God," the message said, without mentioning specific actions.
The five-minute-long message, which had English subtitles, said attacks by Europeans in Iraq paled in comparison to the publication of the "insulting drawings."
"You went overboard in your unbelief and freed yourselves of the etiquettes of dispute and fighting and went to the extent of publishing these insulting drawings. This is the greatest misfortune and the most dangerous."
The message also attacks King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, describing him as "the crownless king in Riyadh" and claiming the king could have ended the dispute by using his influence with European governments.
The message is bin Laden's first in 2008, following an hour-long audio message in late December in which he warned Iraq's Sunni Arabs against fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq and vowed new attacks on Israel.