Al Qaeda in Yemen has taken credit for the terror attacks in Paris that left 20 people dead, but there’s no evidence that the group actually had any hand in the attack.
Nasr al-Ansi, a militant commander, made the claim in a video released this week, but the Christian Science Monitor says there’s no evidence that the group did.
“The group, also known as Al Qaeda in Yemen, has been heavily involved in attempted attacks on the West, so it would has an incentive to make a false claim. Its attempts in recent years at spectacular attacks on the West, including a foiled attempt to smuggle bombs onto cargo planes bound for Europe and the US, have all failed,” it reported.
“And its star has been eclipsed among fans of jihad by the so-called Islamic State, which has built a powerful army in Iraq and Syria and has been hogging the limelight with videotaped murders of captives and enslavement of captured minorities.”
Cherif and Said Kouachi, who police say were the gunmen at the Charlie Hebdo offices who killed 12, pledged loyalty to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) before their deaths.
Amedy Coulibaly, who killed others at a Jewish-owned supermarket, said he was aligned with ISIS.
Al-Ansi claims AQAP financed the operation, formed the plan, chose the target, and chose the leader. He also claimed that Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a US airstrike in September 2011, helped plan the attack. While it’s possible that al-Awlaki’s teaching inspired the brothers, or that the brothers met al-Awlaki–as an unnamed Yemeni official told Reuters and Cherif himself said in an interview before his deeath–there’s no evidence of any contact between the Kouachis and AQAP.
Further, the fact that Coulibaly was involved damages the terror group’s claims of involvement. He not only pledged allegiance to ISIS, but was also a career criminal.
Sajjan Gohel, who teaches Islamic politics at the London School of Economics, said that the fact that the Kouachis and Coulibaly pledged allegiance to different groups indicated that the men operated independently of the groups.
“It’s almost as if they made the decision to make the plot synchronized rather than get permission from the groups’ leaders abroad,” Gohel told Bloomberg. “It’s a very unusual plot because it has many different dynamics to it. It’s a new style of terrorism we are potentially witnessing now.”
Matthew Henman, head of IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre in London, noted that the arrangement may have been more complex then one group arranging the operation.
“Enemies at the macro level, their supporters have cooperated on the micro level on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq,” he said of Al-Qaeda and ISIS.
“The Paris assailants probably drew “on personal networks and affiliations which transcend affiliation to a specific organization,” he said.
One Western source even told Reuters that al-Ansi is an Al Qaeda hawk reputed to have advocated a merger with the even more hardline Islamic State.