Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden said U.S. President Barack Obama had planted the seeds of "revenge and hatred" toward the United States in the Muslim world and warned Americans to prepare for the consequences.
Bin Laden’s remarks were aired on Wednesday by Al Jazeera television, one day after his deputy described Obama as a criminal and warned Muslims not to fall for his polished words.
The comments appeared to be a drive by al Qaeda to pre-empt a major speech to the Muslim world that Obama is due to deliver in Egypt on Thursday.
"Obama and his administration have planted seeds for hatred and revenge against America," the Saudi-born bin Laden said in the audio recording, adding that Obama was treading in the footsteps of his predecessor George W. Bush.
The White House said it was not surprising bin Laden was trying to shift attention away from U.S. President Barack Obama’s planned speech.
"I don’t think it’s surprising that al Qaeda would want to shift attention away from the president’s historic and continued efforts to have a open dialogue with the Muslim world," spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said: "The timing is pretty self-evident … It’s regrettable because the president is going on an extraordinary outreach to the Muslim world."
Bin Laden said Obama’s policies in Pakistan had raised "animosity" among Muslims, adding that the U.S. president had "ordered" Pakistan to fight the Taliban Islamists, al Qaeda’s allies, in the Swat region.
"Obama ordered (Pakistani President Asif) Zardari and his army to prevent the Swat people from implementing sharia through killing and bombing and destruction," he said.
"This has led to the displacement of about a million Muslims — elderly, women and children — from their villages and homes to become refugees in tents."
Pakistan’s army began battling the Taliban in Swat in April, after a militant thrust into a district 100 km (60 miles) northwest of the capital raised fears at home and abroad that the nuclear-armed country could slowly slip into militant hands.
"Let the American people prepare to continue to reap what has been planted by the heads of the White House in the coming years and decades," bin Laden said.
In a separate development on Wednesday, al Qaeda’s North African wing said it had carried out its threat to kill a British hostage it was holding in the Sahara.
Algerian security expert Hamid Ghomrassa said the network was telling Obama he "must understand that al Qaeda is a force in the region that cannot be ignored."
Bin Laden’s second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri, said in an audio tape posted on an Islamist website on Tuesday that Muslims had already received Obama’s "bloody messages," which were pre-empting the U.S. president’s charm offensive.
Obama has chosen Egypt to make an address to the Islamic world, in which he will try to dispel resentment inflamed by U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan following al Qaeda’s September 11 attacks. He arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday on the first leg of his trip.