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A week after two masked gunmen stormed the Paris office of satirical publication Charlie Hebdo, killing 12, Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen is claiming responsibility for the attack.

The group formally announced their involvement, saying the target was chosen by the Al-Qaeda leadership in response to the controversial images of the Prophet Muhammad illustrated on many of Charlie Hebdo’s covers. The group also called the two brothers who carried out the attack “two heroes of Islam.”

According to the New York Times:

A statement by the official publication arm of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in Yemen, indicated that the attack on Charlie Hebdo was in response to the publication’s frequent caricatures lampooning the Prophet Muhammad.

The attack was ordered by the Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, in keeping with the wishes of his predecessor, Osama bin Laden, the document said.

The Qaeda statement said that “the one who chose the target, laid the plan and financed the operation is the leadership of the organization.”

The claim of responsibility appeared in an Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula video featuring one of the group’s leaders and simultaneously in a print statement sent to reporters, which bore the insignia of group’s publication arm, Al Malahem.

The statement and video both said that the American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki made the “arrangement” with those who carried out the attack in Paris. It said that Mr. Awlaki, who joined the Qaeda branch in Yemen before being killed by an American drone strike in September 2011, “threatens the West both in his life and after his martyrdom,” a reference to the continuing influence on the Internet of his calls for violent jihad.

The brothers, Said and Cherif Kouachi, reportedly went to Yemen for training in 2011. Before they were killed by police, the brothers said they carried out the attack on behalf of the Qaeda branch in Yemen to avenge the death of Mr. Awlaki.

Their rampage set off a three-day manhunt and spurred another act of terror carried out by gunman Amedy Coulibaly at a kosher market in Paris. The Al-Qaeda group who claimed responsibility, however, said Coulibaly’s incident was a coincidence.

The statement by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula called the Kouachi brothers “two heroes of Islam,” but it referred to Mr. Coulibaly’s actions as a coincidence. The statement did not take responsibility for the actions of Mr. Coulibaly, who, in a video released after his death, said he was a supporter of the Islamic State, a rival to Al Qaeda that is also known as ISIS or ISIL.

The statement referred to Mr. Coulibaly as a “mujahid brother.”

A member of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who spoke to The New York Times on the condition of anonymity, said the joint timing of the two operations was a result of the friendship between Mr. Coulibaly and the Kouachi brothers and not a reflection of common planning between the Qaeda group and the Islamic State.

The group gave no explanation why they waited a week to claim responsibility.

The Aftermath:

PHILIPPINES-FRANCE-ATTACKS-CHARLIE-HEBDO

This week, Charlie Hebdo released their first issue since the massacre — a green cover with an illustration of the Prophet Muhammad crying, holding a sign that says “Je suis Charlie.” The words “All is Forgiven” are scrawled above his head.

Three million copies were printed, about 50 times the regular amount. Before dawn, the publication was sold out across Paris.

The cartoonist responsible for the drawing said this about the cover:

“It was not the front page the world wanted us to make, but it was the one that we wanted to make,” Renald Luzier said. “It was not the front page the terrorists wanted us to make, because there are no terrorists in it, there is just a man crying, a guy crying – it’s Mohammad.”

But not everyone thinks the illustration is pitch perfect.

In the Philippines, 1,500 gathered in one of the main Muslim-majority cities Wednesday to protest Charlie Hebdo’s caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

“What had happened in France, the Charlie Hebdo killing, is a moral lesson for the world to respect any kind of religion, especially the religion of Islam,” organizers said in a statement released during the 3-hour rally.

“Freedom of expression does not extend to insulting the noble and the greatest prophet of Allah.”

A group calling itself “Boses ng Masa,” or Voice of the Masses organised the rally, which attracted about 1,500 people, Marawi police officer Esmail Biso told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

And back in France, a French comedian known for his controversial statements came under fire for comments he posted to Facebook suggesting he sympathizes with one of the gunmen. His subsequent arrest sparked heated conversations online about freedom of speech and who it protects.

According to The Guardian:

Prosecutors had opened the case against Dieudonné M’bala M’bala on Monday after he wrote “Tonight, as far as I’m concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly” – mixing the slogan “Je suis Charlie”, used in tribute to the journalists killed at magazine Charlie Hebdo, with a reference to gunman Amédy Coulibaly. Dieudonné was arrested on Wednesday.

Coulibaly killed four people at a Jewish supermarket on Friday and a police officer the day before.

Dieudonné posted his controversial Facebook post after attending Sunday’s unity march against extremism that brought more than 1.5 million people on to the streets of Paris in the wake of the attacks.

He described the march – considered the biggest rally in modern French history – as “a magical moment comparable to the big bang.”

He has since deleted the post.

SOURCE: The Guardian, NYT, AFP | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty | VIDEO SOURCE: News Inc.

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