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Al-Qaida In Yemen Takes Responsibility For Paris Attack

Al-Qaida in Yemen has taken responsibility for the attack on a satirical magazine in Paris that left 12 people dead.

In a YouTube video, Nasr al-Ansi, a top commander of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, said the attack was in vengeance for the Prophet Muhammad.

In a graphic released on Twitter by the group, they say the leadership of AQAP planned and financed the operation against Charlie Hebdo, which printed cartoon depictions of the prophet, despite threats.

"We did it in compliance with the Command of Allah and supporting His Messenger," the message read.

In the almost 12-minute video, al-Ansi congratulates, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, the two gunmen in Paris, and exhorts Muslims across the world to "take vengeance for Muslim blood spilled."

As al-Ansi speaks, video of the attack in Paris and of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center plays in the background.

Al-Ansi also issues a warning to the West.

"Stop your insults on our prophet and sanctities," al-Ansi says. "Stop spilling our blood. Leave our lands. Quit plundering our resources."

Otherwise, he says, "you will look for peace and stability, but you will not find it."

The New York Times reports that al-Ansi does not take responsibility for the attack on a Kosher supermarket that started during the manhunt for the Kouachi brothers, but he does call Amedy Coulibaly, who police say perpetrated the attack, a "mujahid brother."

The paper adds:

"A member of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who spoke to The New York Times on the condition of anonymity, said the joint timing of the two operations was a result of the friendship between Mr. Coulibaly and the Kouachi brothers and not a reflection of common planning between the Qaeda group and the Islamic State.

"Mr. Coulibaly, who had been imprisoned for a host of petty crime offenses, met Chérif Kouachi in jail, where Mr. Kouachi was serving time in 2005 and 2006 for belonging to a terrorist cell in Paris that sent young men to fight in Iraq."

There are two major U.S. plots attributed to AQAP: First in Dec. 25, 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, colloquially known as the "underwear bomber," tried to detonate an explosive aboard a Detroit-bound flight.

In 2010, the organization was suspected of trying to pack explosives in printer ink cartridges.

Update at 11:44 a.m. ET. Weighing The Claim:

J.M. Berger, a fellow at the Brookings Institution's Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, says he doesn't have any doubts that Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula played a role in the Paris attack.

"The question is exactly what that role is," Berger said.

Berger says that in other cases, AQAP has usually taken credit for an attack and then released some kind of evidence to corroborate their claim. He says that may happen in this case, too.

Still, Berger says, this would be an unusual attack for AQAP, because from what we know, it would have been perpetrated years after the Koachi brothers are thought to have gone to Yemen.

Sajjan Goel, the international security director for the Asia-Pacific Foundation who also teaches at London School of Economics, says today's announcement leaves a lot of open questions.

Mainly: Has AQAP established a line of communication between Yemen and operatives in the West? And does this mean a shift in the mode of operation of AQAP.

Goel says in the past, AQAP has focused on sophisticated, bomb-based attacks on the airline industry.

"This plot would be a departure from their previous attacks," he said.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.