DUBAI: Al Qaeda in Yemen has claimed responsibility for the attack on Charlie Hebdo in a video posted online, saying it was “vengeance” for the French weekly's cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).
Nasser al-Ansi, one of the chiefs of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), said the attack was ordered by Ayman al-Zawahiri, the jihadist network's global commander.
“We, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, claim responsibility for this operation as vengeance for the messenger of Allah,” Ansi said in the video entitled “A message regarding the blessed battle of Paris."
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.
Speaking over footage of the attack that killed 12 people, Ansi said: “Today, the mujahedeen avenge their revered prophet, and send the clearest message to everyone who would dare to attack Islamic sanctities."
Ansi referenced a warning by the late chief of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, who was killed by US commandos in May 2011.
“If the freedom of your speech is not restrained, then you should accept the freedom of our actions,” he said.
Charlie Hebdo had angered Muslims in the past by printing cartoons lampooning Mohammed and Islam.
The claim of responsibility coincided with the return of Charlie Hebdo to newsstands, amid unprecedented demand that saw the paper to print five million copies.
The new issue features another cartoon showing a bearded man on its cover, with tears in his eyes, holding a “Je Suis Charlie” sign under the headline “All is forgiven”.
The perpetrators of the attack, brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, were known to have trained with AQAP.
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 jihadists from the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.