A newly released audio message from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) features a top official in the group, Harith al Nadhari, praising the attack on the office of Charlie Hebdo earlier this week.
Although the audio message was not released via one of AQAP’s official channels, it appears to be legitimate. The release bears the logo of al Malahem Media Foundation, AQAP’s media wing.
Al Nadhari begins his roughly 5 minute message by saying the French cartoonists targeted in the attack are the “enemies of Allah’s messenger, who have disbelieved in him, lied about him.” They are also “the impure from among the sons of France,” Al Nadhari says.
Although the audio does not include any claims of credit for the attack, al Nadhari lauds the gunmen as “mujahideen heroes.” He justifies the massacre by saying that France is “among the leaders of disbelief,” because the nation regularly insults Islam, its prophets, and its followers. Al Nadhari addresses the French nation directly and asks, “When will you stop fighting Allah and his messenger? If you convert to Islam, that would be better for you.”
Al Nadhari concludes his statement by telling the French that unless they cease their “aggression against the Muslims…you will not be blessed with security.”
A separate written statement, allegedly authored by AQAP, has been disseminated via social media. The message is purportedly AQAP’s claim of responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attack.
However, The Long War Journal cautions that the statement’s authenticity could not be immediately verified. The statement has been tweeted and retweeted by well-connected jihadists who usually promote legitimate messages, but this does not guarantee that it is authentic.
“The operation was directed by the leadership of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP),” the statement reads. The targets were chosen deliberately “in retaliation for the display of the Prophet.”
The authors of the release also claim that the operation was “the implementation of Sheikh Osama Bin Laden’s threat” in which he warned the West against going too far in offending Muslim sensibilities. Moreover, the statement explains that AQAP delayed taking credit “for security reasons” related to the attackers.
The release outlines four messages to the West, as conveyed in the Paris attack. Firstly, violating Muslim sanctities will come at a high price. The authors say that the “punishment will be severe and be a deterrent.” Moreover, Western countries will pay the price of their crimes “in their own homes.” Additionally, the alleged AQAP message says that al Qaeda’s policy of striking the “head of the snake” is ongoing. Lastly, the statement alleges that Inspire, AQAP’s English-language magazine, has been a “resounding success,” because of the attack on Charlie Hebdo. In Inspire, AQAP called for terrorist attacks against Charlie Hebdo and others who had supposedly smeared the Prophet Mohammed.
At least two media outlets are reporting that AQAP members have claimed responsibility for the attack. The Intercept reports that an AQAP member sent the publication a statement saying that the group “directed the operation.” And the Associated Press reports that an AQAP member says the attack was ordered “as revenge for the honor” of the Prophet Mohammed.
Such claims may be accurate, but jihadist organizations typically issue formal statements claiming responsibility for attacks, especially assaults as high-profile as the one on Charlie Hebdo.