|In this April 23, 2013 file photo, a suspected Yemeni al-Qaida militant, center, holds an Islamist banner as he stands behind bars during a court hearing in state security court. CP|
Maggie Michael, The Associated Press
Yemen's al-Qaida branch on Wednesday claimed responsibility for last week's deadly attack on a Paris satirical newspaper, with one of its top commanders saying the assault was in revenge for the weekly's publications of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, considered an insult in Islam.
The claim came in a video posting by Nasr al-Ansi, a top commander of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP as the branch is known, which appeared on the group's Twitter account.
In the 11-minute video, al-Ansi says the assault on Charlie Hebdo, which killed 12 people — including editors, cartoonists and journalists, as well as two police officers — was in "revenge for the prophet."
He said AQAP "chose the target, laid out the plan and financed the operation" against the weekly, though he produced no evidence to support the claim.
The assault was the beginning of three days of terror in France that saw 17 people killed before the perpetrators, three Islamic extremist attackers, were gunned down by security forces.
The two brothers, Said and Cherif Kouachi, who carried out the Charlie Hebdo attack were "heroes," al-Ansi said.
"Congratulations to you, the Nation of Islam, for this revenge that has soothed our pain," said al-Ansi. "Congratulations to you for these brave men who blew off the dust of disgrace and lit the torch of glory in the darkness of defeat and agony."
Al-Ansi accused France of belonging to the "party of Satan" and said the European country "shared all of America's crimes" against Muslims — a reference to France's military offensive in Mali.
He also warned of more "tragedies and terror" in the future.
Washington considers AQAP as al-Qaida most dangerous offshoots. Formed in 2009 as a merger between the terror group's Yemeni and Saudi branches, AQAP has been blamed for a string of unsuccessful bomb plots against American targets.