The "Bakhsarof Al Yaman" Twitter account @ba_yman, which is associated with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and used to post official messages by the jihadi organization on jihadi forums, posted a series of tweets on January 9 taking credit for the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) disclosed.
Meanwhile, in a video filmed before the Paris supermarket attack by Amedy Coulibaly – who was tied to the known jihadi brothers Said Kouachi and Cherif Kouachi who attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo and killed Friday afternoon in a violent shootout with French counterterrorism forces at a printing plant in Dammartin-en-Goele northeast of Paris — pledged allegiance to ISIS and justified his actions.
The two jihadi groups’ apparent ties to all of the jihadists involved in the Paris attacks raises questions about just how intertwined the two Islamist organizations are. While there’s been considerable punditry about the dislike between the two groups, counterterrorism intelligence officials also have told Homeland Security Today on background that there’s evidence of disturbing ties – including operational ties – between the two jihadi groups, whose goals are the same thing: killing all infidels, apostates and implementing Sharia law.
Similarly, since the Paris attacks, a variety of counterterrorism authorities have opined that with the spotlight having been placed on ISIS, or the Islamic State, Al Qaeda – not wanting to be one-uped — has been forced to show that it’s still a viable jihadi threat with a long reach.
But other seasoned and veteran counterterrorism officials and experts say there is no substantive ideological difference between the two jihadi groups; that they’re both fighting for the same thing: subjugation of all infidels and apostate Muslims and nations and institution of Sharia law.
In November, intelligence emerged indicating Al Qaeda and ISIS leaders agreed to cease in-fighting and join forces to battle their common enemy: the West. Still, some counterterrorism authorities questioned the allegiance. But without reliable human intelligence inside either jihadist group, other counterterrorism intelligence sources said "it’s really difficult to understand what’s going on between them," as one said. "Without real intel, it’s all talk and supposition."
Clare Lopez, a former decades-long CIA officer and Islamist expert who is now vice president for research and analysis at the Center for Security Policy, said, “While security services must track these various groups responsible for training and launching attacks, it is supremely important that the rest of us focus on the broader issue: global Islamic Jihad.”
“The groups, their members, their names come and go, but Islamic Jihad, now resurgent once again, has endured — and conquered — for over 1,300 years,” Lopez said. “We must focus on the Islamic doctrine, law and scriptures that animate and inspire Jihad vs the West, because the real war is not with guns and bombs; it is playing out in the information battlespace, a field of battle that we are not even contesting at the moment.”
“Terror is the means and the end state sought, as ‘The Quranic Concept of War’ tells us, to cow target non-compliant populations and destroy through psychological terror our faith in ourselves and our civilizational principles,” Lopez explained. “But the ultimate objective is subjugation of the whole world to Islamic law (Shariah). We must remember that what we fight is not just some vague ‘violent extremism’ — no — we fight to live free of shariah.”
According to the tweets on the AQAP-tied Twitter account, “the shooting was carried out under AQAP’s instructions and supervision, and the delay in issuing an official claim of responsibility is due to security reasons,” MEMRI reported, adding, “The account also claimed that France had been chosen as the target in light of its overt role in the war on Muslims, and that AQAP’s policy of ‘striking the head of the serpent – namely the US, Britain and France – would continue. It took pride in the success of AQAP’s English-language magazine Inspire in stimulating the mujahideen to carry out attacks and in directing them towards particular targets. In this context, the account noted that Inspire had featured a wanted poster of one of the slain cartoonists [Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier, aka Charb], and advised the West to await further disasters.”
Homeland Security Today also reported that following the killing of Charbonnier, AQAP operative known as Mawlawi Abdallah tweeted that, "One of the men wanted by Al Qaeda has been eliminated – praise Allah, and the other wanted men are soon to come, Allah willing."
The tweet included the “Wanted” poster “for Crimes Against Islam” first published in AQAP’s Inspire magazine in March 2013 with Charbonnier’s picture marked with a red X. The image includes the text, “Appreciation, greetings, and thanks from the ummah of Islam, to those who have avenged Prophet Muhammad."
Homeland Security Today also reported that AQAP members and supporters swarmed social media sites immediately after the jihadi attack on Charlie Hebdo with messages implying the jihadists who attacked the newspaper were AQAP operatives.
"Some followers are wondering about the link between those who carried out the Charlie Hebdo attack and Al Qaeda,” the "Bakhsarof Al Yaman" Twitter account (@ba_yman stated January 9. “A direct link exists, [as] the attack was carried out under AQAP supervision, and the instructions regarding it were issued by AQAP’s headquarters. [AQAP’s leaders] were the ones who chose the targets carefully in order to avenge the insult to the Prophet, especially in France, due to its overt role in the war against Islam and against the oppressed peoples. The action was a realization of the threat of Sheikh Osamabin Laden, who warned the West that continued insult to the sanctities of Islam would have consequences, saying: ‘If your freedom of expression is unlimited, then you should broaden your vision to include our [punitive] actions.’"
Continuing, the Twitter account @ba_yman stated, “The delay on the part of the organization [AQAP] in taking responsibility for the action derives from security considerations tied to those who carried it out. The action conveys many implicit messages to all Western countries. The first message is that insulting the sanctities of Islam and defending those who mock [Islam] will cost [these countries] very dearly, and the punishment will be harsh and deterring. The second message is that the crimes of the Western countries, headed by America, Britain and France, will boomerang and bring disaster to their very heartland. The third message is that Al Qaeda under [Ayman] Al Zawahiri continues to uphold the policy of striking the head of the serpent, [and this policy] will continue accomplishing its goal until the West withdraws into itself. The fourth message is that Al Qaeda’s information policy in motivating the mujahideen — particularly by means of the magazine Inspire, has been strikingly successful in determining the targets and coordinating capabilities. Inspire published the name and picture of one of the cartoonists [Stephane Charbonnier], noting that he was wanted dead or alive by the mujahideen. Therefore the Western governments are advised to expect [further] disasters and calamities, with Allah’s help."
Finally, the AQAP-tied Twitter account asked "the brothers … to translate these tweets and give them the widest circulation."
Two days later, a Dailymotion account calledBaqya (a reference to ISIS) posted a seven-minute video of "Abu Basir ‘Abdallah Al Afriki (Amedy Coulibaly), who carried out the January 9 attack in the kosher supermarket in Paris and murdered a policewoman in Montrouge the day before.
MEMRI said, “The video, titled ‘Soldier of the Caliphate,’ shows him pledging allegiance to ISIS and preparing for the attacks. It also features several segments in which he speaks to the camera and justifies his actions. Sitting with an ISIS flag behind him and a rifle beside him, he says: ‘What we are doing, avenging the Prophet, is completely legitimate, deserved and timely. You attacked the Caliphate, the Islamic State, [so] you are being attacked. You cannot attack and [expect] nothing in return.’”
“Coulibaly also confirms his ties with the Kouachi brothers, perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo shooting,” MEMRI said. “He claims that he gave them thousands of Euros and helped them prepare for the shooting, and that he and they coordinated their actions but acted separately in order to maximize the impact. Finally, he also addresses the Muslims in Europe and France in particular, calling them to join the jihad ‘to defend Islam.’”
MEMRI said, “The video was clearly edited after the supermarket attack, since it begins with some captions that refer to it. It was apparently filmed shortly before the attack, in several different locations. One of the segments may have been filmed after Coulibaly’s January 8 attack on the policewoman, since he says he ‘carried out a small [operation] against the police.’”