Osama Bin Laden has reportedly tied the kidnapping of five French people in Niger to France's treatment of its Muslim minority.
An audio message said to have been recorded by the al-Qaeda leader says the abduction was retaliation for "France's injustice to Muslims".
It says forthcoming French curbs on the full veil are "colonial oppression".
The speaker identified as Bin Laden also tells France to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.
Bin Laden, mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks on the US and other atrocities, is America's most wanted man.
Believed by some to have been killed years ago, he is said by others to be still alive, living in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.
Five French citizens and two others were abducted by al-Qaeda militants at a uranium mine in Niger last month.
It is thought they are now being held in the north-west of neighbouring Mali.
Officials in Mali and Niger recently told France's AFP news agency they believed the captives were still alive.
The speaker on the recording, broadcast by Qatar-based satellite TV channel al-Jazeera, says the kidnapping was "in retaliation for [France's] tyranny... against [the] Muslim nation".
France, he says, believes it has "the right to prevent free women from wearing the hijab".
The speaker refers to the "hijab", or Islamic headscarf, but this is not being banned in France which is only cracking down on full face veils - the "burqa" and "niqab".
To protect its security, the speaker goes on, France must "withdraw from the damned war of [former US President George W] Bush in Afghanistan".