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France Increases Security After Bin Laden Threat

French soldiers patrol in front of the Sacre Coeur in the Montmartre district, in Paris, 28 Oct 2010

Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Thursday that France was in a state of "extreme vigilance" but he played down al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden's latest threat to attack French citizens.

French officials said a recording of Bin Laden's threats aired Wednesday was authentic, but they minimized his ability to strike France as well as his connection with the kidnap of French nationals in Africa.

Bin Laden threatened to kill French nationals to avenge the country's support for the war in Afghanistan and a new law that bans full-face veils in France.

Kouchner said the latest threats were "unacceptable," but not new. He also said he doubted Bin Laden was involved in the hostage situation.

France has been in a state of heightened alert for weeks after previous reports of terrorist threats.

French Defense Minister Herve Morin said Thursday French forces in Afghanistan hope to transfer security of some provinces to Afghans next year.

He denied the decision had anything to do with Bin Laden's warning.

According to NATO's International Security Assistance Force, France has 3,750 troops in Afghanistan.

An al Qaeda offshoot in North Africa has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of five French nationals in Niger.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.