Al Qaida in Yemen has claimed responsibility for the attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, saying it was ordered by the Islamist terrorist group’s leadership for insults to the Mohammad, the founder of Islam, according to a video posted online.
One Western source said no hard evidence of a direct operational link to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) had yet been found. But it was the first time that a group had officially claimed responsibility for the attack, which was led by Cherif and Said Kouachi, two French-born brothers of Algerian extraction who had visited Yemen in 2011.
In Washington, a State Department spokeswoman said the United States believed the video was authentic but officials were still determining if the claim of responsibility is true.
Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi, an AQAP ideologue, said the “one who chose the target, laid the plan and financed the operation is the leadership of the organization,” without naming an individual.
The purported claim of responsibility put a new spotlight on a group often cited by Western officials as al-Qaida’s most dangerous branch. AQAP has recently focused on fighting government forces and Shi’ite rebels in Yemen, but says it still aims to carry out attacks abroad.
AQAP mocked a huge rally of solidarity for the victims held in Paris on Sunday, saying the shock on display showed the feebleness of the Western leaders who attended.
“Look at how they gathered, rallied and supported each other, strengthening their weakness and dressing their wounds,” it said.
Two senior Yemeni sources said Cherif and Said Kouachi had met Awlaki in Yemen and undergone weapons training in the eastern province of Marib. However, a Marib tribal leader denied that they had trained there in 2011 or that Awlaki had been based there.
AQAP’s Yemeni leader, Nasser al-Wuhayshi, was once a close associate of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, whose father was born in Yemen, a neighbor of Saudi Arabia.