Al-Qaeda in Yemen claims directing Paris attacks as ‘revenge’ – reports

A photo of Al Qaeda's leader, Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri (Reuters/Site Monitoring Service via Reuters TV)
A statement sent to several media outlets by an alleged member of Al-Qaeda in Yemen claims the terrorist group is responsible for the Charlie Hebdo shooting and carried it out as a “revenge for the honor” of Prophet Muhammad.

READ MORE: Police release footage of dramatic assault on Charlie Hebdo suspects (VIDEO)

AP and The Intercept quoted a statement sent to them by a source within Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), commonly referred to as Al-Qaeda in Yemen.

The statement, provided on condition of anonymity, says “the leadership of AQAP directed the operations and they have chosen their target carefully as a revenge for the honor of Prophet [Muhammad].” It directly refers to the Wednesday attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which resulted in 12 people killed.

However, it goes on to explain that the attack targeted not just the controversial outlet, but France in general “because of its obvious role in the war on Islam and oppressed nations.”

The “operation” was in line with threats voiced by Sheikh Usama (the late Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden) to the West about “the consequences of the persistence in the blasphemy against Muslim sanctities.”

Osama bin Laden (AFP Photo)

“If there is no check on the freedom of your words, then let your hearts be open to the freedom of our actions,” The Intercept quotes the statement as saying.

According to the source, the group had not claimed responsibility for the attack earlier “due to the executors’ security reasons.”

READ MORE: Charlie Hebdo suspects admitted links to Al-Qaeda, coordinated with Paris store hostage – French TV

Al-Qaeda’s ‘message to the West’

Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the leader of the Islamist militant group Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) (Photo from wikipedia.org)

The statement of the terrorist group’s affiliate, which is currently headed by Nasir al-Wuhayshi and is considered to be Al-Qaeda’s most proactive and dangerous branch, reportedly contains a chilling message to Western powers regarding their Middle Eastern policies.

AQAP allegedly promises a “dear price” and “severe punishment” for “touching Muslims’ sanctity and protecting those who blaspheme.”

The group then threatens that “the crimes of the Western countries, above them America, Britain and France will backfire deep in their home.”

The statement boasts success in Al-Qaeda’s “policy of hitting the snake’s head” – which appears to be a metaphor for the group’s terror attacks inside the countries that led military invasions into Muslim states and confronted or hunted down Al-Qaeda militants.

It praises the leadership of Ayman al-Zawahiri – the current head of Al-Qaeda and Bin Laden’s successor – and the jihadists “media policies.” Al-Qaeda’s glossy outlet Inspire is mentioned in particular, as it published the name of the killed French cartoonist Stéphane “Charb” Charbonnier in a wanted “dead or alive” list for caricatures of Prophet Muhammad.

READ MORE: Charlie Hebdo massacre suspects on US no-fly list ‘for years,’ trained with Al-Qaeda in Yemen – reports

Meanwhile, one of the leading figures in AQAP, Sheikh Hareth al-Nadhari, had his new comments regarding the Charlie Hebdo attack posted on YouTube, Reuters reported.

According to the clip, the Wednesday massacre in France was prompted by “insults to the prophets” and carried out by “the faithful soldiers of God.” Al-Nadhari, however, stopped short of claiming responsibility for directing the attack.

The manhunt for Charlie Hebdo terror attack suspects Cherif and Said Kouachi dramatically ended on Friday. Both were killed in a shootout with police in Dammartin-en-Goele printworks north-east of Paris, while one policeman was injured. A worker who was taken hostage by the attackers was freed.

However, there arose separate hostage situations, with at least one of them carried out by Kouachi-linked gunman Amedy Coulibaly. Coulibaly, a man of West African appearance who had also been wanted for the murder of a female police officer on Thursday, claimed that he was linked to the Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISIL) jihadist group and “synchronized” his actions with the Kouachis in a brief prerecorded interview with French channel BFMTV.

After killing four and taking 16 more people hostage at a kosher grocery store in Paris, Coulibaly demanded freedom for the Kouachi brothers besieged by police at the time. Security forces stormed the store with the help of a flash grenade and shot the hostage taker dead.

A screengrab taken from an AFP TV video shows a general view of members of the French police special forces launching the assault at a kosher grocery store in Porte de Vincennes, eastern Paris. (AFP Photo/Gabrielle Chatelain)

READ MORE: Four killed in Paris store hostage crisis, Charlie Hebdo suspects also dead

Coulibaly’s wife and alleged accomplice Hayat Boumeddiene has been put on the police wanted list and is currently at large. Boumeddiene had exchanged about 500 phone calls with a companion of one of the Kouachi brothers, according to authorities.

Meanwhile in the southern city of Montpellier, a gunman took two women hostage at a jewellery store without making any demands. The man’s motives were still unclear after he surrendered to police following nearly nine hours of negotiations, letting the hostages go unharmed. Local authorities denied the incident had any connection to this week’s terror attacks.

French police special forces evacuate local residents on January 9, 2015 in Porte de Vincennes, eastern Paris. (AFP Photo/Martin Bureau)

READ MORE: Hostages freed in jewelry store in Montpellier, France (VIDEO)

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Friday said that he is not ruling out the possibility of more terrorist attacks against the country.

“France has faced an unprecedented level of terrorism. We cannot exclude the possibility of new attacks against the country. France leads a real war against terrorism,” Valls said in a statement.

There are up to 1,400 French citizens linked to jihad groups, Valls said, RIA Novosti cited local channel TF1. “We are talking about hundreds of people who are trained in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or Yemen. This is a significant number, from 1,200 to 1,400 people.”

School children evacuated near the scene of a hostage taking in Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris January 9, 2015. (Reuters/Eric Gaillard)