CAIRO, Egypt - A day before President Obama is to deliver a speech here seeking goodwill in the Islamic world, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden issued a new message yesterday telling Muslims they should hate him.
The message was the second from al-Qaeda in as many days criticizing Obama, a PR offensive that some analysts said showed the terrorist group was worried that the new president would succeed in improving America's image in the Muslim world and undermining the group's jihad, or holy war.
In his audiotape, broadcast on Al-Jazeera television, bin Laden said Obama had inflamed hatred toward the United States by ordering Pakistan to crack down on extremists and block Islamic law there.
He said U.S. pressure led to a campaign of "killing, fighting, bombing, and destruction" that prompted the exodus of more than a million Muslims from the Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan. He was referring to a Pakistani military campaign against the Taliban that began in April.
"Elderly people, children, and women fled their homes and lived in tents as refugees after they have lived in dignity in their homes," bin Laden said. "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," bin Laden said. "The number of these seeds is equal to the number of displaced people from Swat Valley."
Bin Laden did not specifically mention Obama's planned speech. Al-Jazeera did not say how or when the tape was obtained, and its authenticity could not be immediately ascertained.
"Obama's election is just about the worst thing that could have happened to these guys," said Tom Sanderson, a terrorism expert at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. "They knew right away that his election undermined a key part of their argument that the U.S. was anti-Islamic, that the U.S. was racist."
Sanderson said Obama's approach could make it harder for al-Qaeda to recruit supporters and raise money.
Obama is popular in the Middle East, in part because of his friendly words toward Islam, his promise to withdraw from Iraq, and his own personal background as the son of a Muslim father.
Al-Qaeda has tried to paint Obama as no different from President George W. Bush, highlighting continued U.S. involvement in conflicts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, all Muslim-majority countries.
On Tuesday, al-Qaeda's deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, said in an audio message that Obama's speech would not change Muslim sentiment, because of the "bloody messages" the U.S. military is sending in Afghanistan and Iraq.