Al-Qaeda Claims Responsibility for French Terror Attack, Says Killings 'Sooth Pain' of Insulting Muhammad
Al-Qaida's branch in Yemen said on Wednesday that it's responsible for the terror attack in Paris last week that left 12 people dead following a shooting at satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. In a video the group's top commander, Nasr al-Ansi, said that the killings "sooth the pain" that Charlie Hebdo caused for its cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.
"As for the blessed battle of Paris, we, the organisation of al-Qaeda al Jihad in the Arabian Peninsula, claim responsibility for this operation as vengeance for the messenger of God," al-Ansi says in the 11-minute video, according to Reutuers.
"Congratulations to you, the nation of Islam, for this revenge that has soothed our pain. Congratulations to you for these brave men who blew off the dust of disgrace and lit the torch of glory in the darkness of defeat and agony."
The commander goes on to call the attack on Charlie Hebdo "revenge for the prophet," and says that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula "chose the target, laid out the plan and financed the operation."
Al-Ansi praises the gunmen who killed 12 people at the magazine's offices, identified as brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, and calls them "heroes."
A member of AQAP told The Associated Press on Friday that the group organized the attack on Charlie Hebdo, but spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The attackers targeted cartoonists who throughout the years have published drawings of Muhammad in their magazine, deemed offensive to many in the Islamic world. Charlie Hebdo's offices have been targeted before, and were firebombed in a November 2011 attack.
Over 40 world leaders — not including U.S. President Barack Obama — and millions of French people participated in marches across the country on Sunday in solidarity with the victims and against extremism and violence.
Charlie Hebdo's decision to continue publishing Muhammad drawings despite the attacks has been met with much debate, however. Some Muslim voices, such as Salah-Aldeen Khadr, the executive producer of Al Jazeera English, noted that such cartoons insult the majority of Islamic followers.
"You don't actually stick it to the terrorists by insulting the majority of Muslims by reproducing more cartoons — you actually entrench the very animosity and divisions these guys seek to sow," he wrote.
In his video, Al-Ansi accuses France of belonging to the "party of Satan" and aiding in America's offensives in Islamic countries, in this case referencing France's military operations against terror targets in Mali.
"It is France that has shared all of America's crimes," al-Ansi said. "It is France that has committed crimes in Mali and the Islamic Maghreb. It is France that supports the annihilation of Muslims in Central Africa in the name of race cleansing."
CNN noted that AQAP did not claim responsibility for the separate attack at a kosher grocery store in Paris on Friday that left four people dead. Instead, the commander called the attack a "blessing from Allah."
France has deployed over 10,000 troops across its cities in the wake of the attacks, while thousands of police officers have been assigned to protect Jewish schools.
French President Francois Hollande promised that the country will "not yield" to terror, while honoring the three police officers killed in the attacks.
"Our great and beautiful France will never break, will never yield, never bend" in the face of the Islamist threat that is "still there, inside and outside" Hollande said.
Authorities are also still searching for another suspect in the shooting, a woman identified as Hayat Boumeddiene, the widow of Coulibaly Kouachi.