Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo massacre in a video on Wednesday, a week after two gunmen shot and killed 12 people at the Paris offices of the satirical news magazine.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released the video the same day the surviving members of Charlie Hebdo released a new issue with a cover featuring the same kind of cartoon of Muhammad that incited the attack. Its release was condemned by Muslim leaders and renewed fears that another reprisal attack could hit the city.
In the video, senior Al Qaeda leader Sheikh Nasr Bin Ali Al Ansi says his group orchestrated the attack as “vengeance.” The video, entitled “Message regarding the blessed raid in Paris,” shows Ansi saying that his group “chose the target, laid the plan, and financed the operation,” according to a translation released by AQAP’s official media wing, Al Malahem Media, and provided to NBC News by the Quilliam anti-extremism think tank.
The video confirms what presumed gunman Cherif Kouachi said, that he was working for the notoriously brutal AQAP, and that the attack wasn’t a homegrown terror attack. It also reveals that the attacks on the Jewish community by a third gunman weren’t planned by the terrorist organization.
In the video, Ansi congratulates Cherif and his brother Said Kouachi, calling them “heroes of Islam” while displaying their photos. He also says it was a gift from God that the operation coincided with the attack on a kosher supermarket, indicating that while the third gunman was a known friend of the Kouachi brothers and his attacks likely coordinated, they weren’t planned by the terrorist organization.
RELATED: Charlie Hebdo doubles down
In the video Ansi blames Western governments for protecting and supporting “offensive cartoonists” and threatens more, saying that unless the “insults” against the prophet stop, “do not expect of us except tragedies and terror.”
AQAP is the branch of Al Qaeda thought to be most likely – and capable – of carrying out attacks on the West. Late last year, AQAP killed an American hostage in Yemen during a failed rescue attempt. Luke Somers, a photojournalist, was killed along with a South African teacher on Dec. 6 when militants realized American forces were raiding the village.
Though a normal run of Charlie Hebdo is 60,000 issues, 3 million issues of today’s issue were planned; after the issue sold out before dawn on Wednesday, an additional 2 million copies were announced.