Two days after his death, a video emerged Sunday of one of the Paris gunmen pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group, while his two fellow terrorists have claimed to be from al-Qaida — a fiercely rival extremist organization.
That seeming contradiction has raised questions about the connections among the three French attackers, whether they acted with the direct involvement or knowledge of the networks, and whether their friendship allowed them to put aside the rift between the groups.
The Islamic State group does not cooperate with al-Qaida and actually fights them for territory in a side conflict of Syria’s civil war.
In video verified by the SITE Intelligence Group, Amedy Coulibaly said he had worked in coordination with Said and Cherif Kouachi, the “brothers from our team,” who carried out the massacre at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday.
“We did things a bit together and a bit apart, so that it’d have more impact,” he said in fluent French, adding that he had helped the brothers financially with “a few thousand euros” for the operation. The video also showed him doing pushups, and featured automatic rifles, pistols and ammunition. He spoke beneath the black-and-white flag used by many Islamic terrorists.
Coulibaly explained why the publication and his target — the kosher supermarket — were selected.
“What we are doing is completely legitimate, given what they are doing,” he said.
The video appeared Sunday on terrorist websites, and two men who dealt illegal substances with Coulibaly confirmed his identify to The Associated Press. Police said they were investigating the conditions under which the video was posted.
In their internationally aimed propaganda magazines, both terrorist groups promote the idea that overseas attacks need not have organizational links to the main leadership, and that “mujahedeen,” or holy warriors, should take matters into their own hands.
Thousands of young people from Western Europe have headed to the war zones in Syria and Iraq to join the terror groups. Lawyers and family members of some of those who have gone say many have only a hazy sense of who will meet them when they arrive. But security officials fear that they will return home with new training in warfare, nursing old grievances.
While a member of al-Qaida’s branch in Yemen said anonymously Friday that the group had directed the Charlie Hebdo attack, the group has not issued an official statement on the matter. Its senior cleric praised the operation but also stopped short of claiming responsibility directly.
Regardless, even if the al-Qaida group did not know about the attacks in advance, jihadi fighters in the Middle East have a natural interest to claim such violence and present a unified front to adversaries — even if it sometimes goes against local positioning.