Campaign staffers for U.S. presidential hopeful Barack Obama accused his rival Hilary Clinton of "fear mongering" for circulating a photo of him in an Islamic outfit, press reports said Tuesday.
The gossip news website Drudge Report posted a photo showing Obama in a turban and a white wraparound with a Somali Sheikh during his 2006 visit to the Wajir area in northeastern Kenya.
The website claimed the image was sent to them as part of a smear campaign by the Clinton camp.
Obama, who is battling Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, has had to fend off false claims perpetuated by email that he is a secret Muslim.
Obama's Kenyan father was a non-observant Muslim, but the candidate himself is a Christian, like his white American mother. His church in Chicago -- the Trinity United Church of Christ -- describes itself as "unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian."
Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, issued a fiery statement accusing Clinton of "shameful, offensive fear-mongering".
Speaking on the eve of the final head-to-head debate before the all-important primaries next week in Ohio and Texas, Mr Plouffe said: "It's exactly the kind of divisive politics that turns away Americans of all parties and diminishes respect for America in the world."
But Clinton's campaign manager insisted it was Obama who is playing dirty tricks.
"If Barack Obama's campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed," Maggie Williams said.
Clinton staffers, who refuse to confirm or deny they sent the photograph, insist there is nothing offensive in the picture – American leaders have a long tradition of dressing in local attire while on foreign visits.
The photograph is the latest in a string of dirty tricks meant to tarnish Obama's appeal among U.S. voters by making him out to be Muslim.
Last year, an anonymous source claimed Obama attended a madrassa, or Islamic religious school, during his upbringing in Indonesia, when records show he went to secular and Catholic schools.
In December, two Clinton Iowa volunteers resigned after forwarding a hoax e-mail that falsely said Obama is a Muslim possibly intent on destroying the U.S.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).