Al-Qaeda Yemen Has Claimed Responsibility For Charlie Hebdo Attack
Al-Qaeda’s Yemeni branch has officially taken responsibility for the attack on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo last Wednesday.
According to The New York Times, the statement from the Yemen-based group known as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said it had selected the target as well as planned and financed the attack, which killed 12 people and led to three subsequent days of terror and violence.
It refers to the two gunmen, Cherif and Said Kouachi, as “two heroes of Islam” and says that the massacre was ordered by Ayman al-Zawahri, the leader of al-Qaeda, in accordance with the objectives of Osama bin Laden.
The statement credits Anwar al-Awlaki, an American member of al-Qaeda who was killed by a drone in September of 2011, with planning the attack.
The statement said,
We tell you once again. Stop your insults on our Prophet and sanctities. Stop spilling our blood. Leave our lands.
It goes on to quote what it claims is a message from Osama bin Laden in regards to the Western world’s freedom of speech:
If there is no check on the freedom of your words, then let your hearts be open to the freedom of our actions
The group took responsibility with a video featuring one of the leaders of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as well as a printed statement with the headline Vengeance for the Prophet: A Message Regarding the Blessed Battle of Paris.
Posted online along with the written statement was a picture of the Eiffel Tower disintegrating into smoke.
Also addressed was Amedy Coulibaly, who killed a police officer and four people in a kosher Paris supermarket on Friday before being shot dead by police just minutes after the Kouachis were killed in a printing warehouse.
The statement calls Coulibaly a “mujahid brother” but says that his actions were not planned by the group and were instead a result of his friendship with the Kouachi brothers.
Coulibaly had met Cherif Kouachi in prison at some point in 2005-2006 where they were radicalized by the same jihadist mentor.
Both Kouachis had spent time in Yemen, with the older Said reported to have traveled there for training in 2011.
The 32-and 34-year-olds had told witnesses of the Charlie Hebdo massacre they were members of al-Qaeda.
Charlie Hebdo’s latest issue, released Wednesday with a cover featuring the Prophet Muhammad crying under a caption that translates to “All is forgiven,” has already sold millions of copies. The original plan to print 3 million copies has reportedly been increased to 5 million due to the massive demand as the issue itself has become a symbol of freedom of speech.