PARIS - An Algeria-based al-Qaeda offshoot said in an online video on Tuesday that Muslims have an obligation to attack French interests around the world because of France's military intervention in Mali.
In a message posted on YouTube, Abou Obeida Youssef Al-Annabi, a notable in the al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb group, or AQIM, said the "crusade" led by France in Mali makes its interests "legitimate targets."
French President Francois Hollande said he takes the threat seriously. Hollande ordered the Jan. 11 intervention to stamp out AQIM and two other groups of radicals that controlled northern Mali.
The speech by Al-Annabi said the military campaign against AQIM "is an issue of religion being disgraced and a people being annihilated and an identity destroyed." He said, "It is an obligation on you, Muslims, to respond ... by confronting French interests everywhere."
"These interests," Al-Annabi said, "have become legitimate targets for you," warning that France risks falling into "the same swamp which America fell in in Iraq and Afghanistan."
The group had previously threatened French interests but in less dramatic written statements.
France, helped by African forces, quickly pushed AQIM and other jihadists from Mali's main northern cities, including Timbuktu, killing or dispersing jihadists. Special forces and other troops are now in a cleanup phase, searching for scattered fighters and their supply caches.
"We take seriously this threat from AQIM. We have inflicted tremendous loss to AQIM via the intervention in Mali," Hollande said at a news conference. "But AQIM networks exist outside Mali," he noted.
The intervention in Mali will continue "for the time required," Hollande said, while France remains vigilant elsewhere.
He noted the April 23 car bomb outside the French Embassy in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, that wounded two French guards and a Libyan girl in a home nearby. No group claimed responsibility for that attack.