Both the Islamic State (IS, ISIS, or ISIL) and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have claimed responsibility for last week’s terrorist attack against the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
“The leadership of AQAP directed the operations and they have chosen their target carefully as revenge for the honor of the prophet,” an unnamed member of the al-Qaeda group told the Associated Press (AP), adding that France was targeted “because of its obvious role in the war on Islam and oppressed nations.”
Iran’s state-run Press TV reported that in claiming to be responsible for the Charlie Hebdo attack, ISIS threatened to target the United Sates and the United Kingdom.
“We started with the France operation for which we take responsibility,” said Abu Saad al-Ansari, who is reportedly affiliated with an ISIS faction in Mosul, Iraq.
“Tomorrow will be in Britain, America and others,” the ISIS official also said, adding that “all countries participating in the [US-led] coalition that has killed” members of ISIS are targets.
In February 2014, al-Qaeda formally disassociated itself from the Islamic State, an al-Qaeda offshoot.
Now, both jihadist groups are claiming responsibility for the same attack.
“Apparently what’s going on is a competition between al-Qaeda and ISIS,” noted Breitbart News columnist John Xenakis. “If there are thousands of young men going to Syria to train with ISIS, those are thousands of young men who might instead have gone to Yemen to train with AQAP, which is what Said Kouachi did in 2012, before ISIS’s rise to prominence.”
Jihadist brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi are reportedly responsible for carrying out the Charlie Hebdo attack on January 7 that left 12 people dead. Both men told survivors they were from AQAP, the Yemen-based al-Qaeda affiliate.
Amedy Coulibaly, who pledged loyalty to ISIS, carried out a separate terrorist attack in Paris when the Kouachi brothers were cornered by police on January 9. Coulibaly took over the kosher market in eastern Paris, taking people captive inside. He threatened to kill all the hostages unless police released the Kouachi brothers.
Coulibaly killed a French police officer and four hostages during a standoff with police. He was killed when police stormed the kosher market minutes after security forces killed the Kouachi brothers.
Coulibaly pledged allegiance to ISIS in a posthumous video that appeared on Sunday, saying that he worked in coordination with the Kouachi jihadists brothers, who have been linked to AQAP.
“Experts cast doubt over whether the attacks could have been coordinated by the rival groups [al-Qaeda and ISIS]. … No evidence to date has emerged as to whether Coulibaly even went to Syria or Iraq, where IS holds territory,” reported the AP.
ISIS does not cooperate with al-Qaeda jihadists and actually fights against them in Syria.
The seeming contradiction of members of ISIS and AQAP working together “has raised questions about the connections among the three French attackers, whether they acted with the direct involvement or knowledge of the networks, and whether their friendship allowed them to put aside the rift between the groups,” explained the Associated Press.
“The ties among the men date back to 2005, long before IS had come into being and well before Said Kouachi is believed to have traveled to Yemen,” added the AP in a separate report.
Iran, a Shiite majority country, stands against ISIS, a Sunni jihadist group, in neighboring Iraq.
A military coalition led by the U.S., which considers Iran one of the world’s biggest state sponsors of terrorism, has been conducting airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq since August. That operation was extended to Syria in September.