Al-Qaeda in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack on French magazine Charlie Hebdo, saying it was retribution for insulting the Prophet Mohammad, according to a video posted on YouTube.
“As for the blessed battle of Paris, we, the organization of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), claim responsibility for this operation as vengeance for the Messenger of God,” one of the group’s leaders, Nasser al-Ansi, said in the video titled “A message regarding the blessed battle of Paris.”
Ansi said the attack was ordered by Ayman Zawahiri, the network’s global commander.
“The leadership was the party that chose the target and plotted and financed the plan… It was following orders by our general chief Ayman al-Zawahiri,” he said.
“The heroes were chosen and they answered the call,” Ansi added.
Speaking over footage of the attack that killed 12 people, Ansi said: “Today, the mujahideen avenge their revered prophet, and send the clearest message to everyone who would dare to attack Islamic sanctities.”
On January 7, Cherif and Said Kouachi targeted the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine known for its controversial depictions of the Prophet Mohammad. They killed 12, including a police officer. The two French brothers were killed two days later by French security forces after an extended manhunt.
On January 9, Amedy Coulibaly, a French citizen linked to the Kouachi brothers who is believed to have also killed a police officer on January 7, held people hostage in a kosher supermarket, where he killed four people before being killed himself by security forces.
Despite condemnation of the attacks by Muslims in France and across the world, the Central Council of Muslims in France said there have been more than 50 anti-Muslim assaults since the attack on Charlie Hebdo.
The incidents included 21 reports of shooting at sites frequented by Muslims and the throwing of some form of grenades, and 33 threats.
AQAP in Yemen
AQAP, which is reported to have trained at least one of the two brothers, is seen by Washington as the al-Qaeda network’s most dangerous branch.
The first known attack of al-Qaeda in Yemen dates back to 1992, when bombers hit a hotel that formerly housed US Marines in the southern city of Aden, in which two non-American citizens were killed.
AQAP was formed in January 2009 as a merger of the Yemeni and Saudi branches of al-Qaeda and is led by Nasser al-Wuhayshi.
Since then, AQAP has regularly carried out deadly attacks against Yemeni security forces and, more recently, has claimed a series of bombings against Houthi militants and civilians in the capital Sanaa and central provinces.
The group recently called for its supporters to carry out attacks in France, which is part of a US-led coalition conducting airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Islamist group.
In December, AQAP’s English-language propaganda magazine “Inspire” urged jihadists to carry out “lone wolf” attacks abroad. In 2013, it named Charlie Hebdo cartoonist and editor-in-chief Stephane Charbonnier among its list of targets.
Charbonnier, better known as Charb, was one of 12 people killed in Paris on Wednesday when the two gunmen stormed the magazine’s offices.
AQAP took advantage of the weakness of Yemen’s central government during an uprising in 2011 against now-ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh to seize large swathes of territory across the south.
But after a month-long offensive launched in May 2012 by Yemeni troops, most militants fled to the more lawless desert regions of the east towards the Hadramawt province.
Yemen is a key US ally in the fight against al-Qaeda, allowing Washington to conduct a longstanding drone war against the group on its territory. However, US drone attacks in the impoverished Gulf country have also killed many civilians unaffiliated with al-Qaeda.
(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)