Nasr al-Ansi, a top commander of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP as the branch is known, appeared in an 11-minute video posted on YouTube on Wednesday, saying that the massacre at Charlie Hebdo was in “vengeance for the prophet”.
“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,” said Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi, a leader of the Yemeni branch of al Qaeda (AQAP) in the recording.
He added that the strike was carried out in “implementation” of the order of overall al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, who has called for strikes by Muslims in the West using any means they can find.
AQAP was formed in January 2009 as a merger of the Yemeni and Saudi branches of Al-Qaeda. Washington regards it as the network’s most dangerous branch and has carried out a sustained drone war against its leaders.
“The leadership of (AQAP) was the party that chose the target and plotted and financed the plan… It was following orders by our general chief Ayman al-Zawahiri,” Ansi said.
“The heroes were chosen and they answered the call,” he said
It was not immediately possible to verify the authenticity of the recording, which carried the logo of the al Qaeda’s media group al-Malahem.
The first edition of Charlie Hebdo published after last week’s attacks sold out within minutes at newspaper kiosks around France on Wednesday, with people queuing up to buy copies to support the satirical weekly.
The new issue features another cartoon of Prophet Muhammad on its cover, with tears in his eyes, holding a “Je Suis Charlie” sign under the headline “All is forgiven”.
AQAP has a record of launching attacks far from its base in Yemen, including a bid to blow up a US airliner over Michigan on Christmas Day in 2009.
The group recently called for its supporters to carry out attacks in France, which is part of a US-led coalition conducting air strikes against fighters from the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.