Yemeni al-Qaeda's French connection

Judging by the Kouachi brothers' alleged role in the Paris attack, AQAP seems to have succeeded in attracting recruits.

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    It appears there is some confusion within the Yemeni government, including its intelligence services, about which one of the Paris shooting perpetrators joined and trained with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen.

    A senior official in the Yemeni intelligence services told Al Jazeera on Friday that Said Kouachi was in Yemen in 2011. He joined AQAP and even fought with them, the official said.

    But when his brother Cherif Kouachi spoke to French media outlets before his death on Friday, he said he - and not his brother - was the one who had been in Yemen and that he had even been financed by senior AQAP member Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a US drone strike in 2011.

    This put not just Yemeni officials in a quandary but also Western intelligence sources who had been telling media outlets that it was Said, not Cherif, who was in Yemen.

    Regardless of which brother was in Yemen, the big question is whether AQAP had the ability to carry out the kind of overseas attack that left Charlie Hebdo's top editors and cartoonists dead.

    The answer, in short order, is: Yes, AQAP has what it needs to pull off such an assault in terms of both resources and intent.

    The US says the group - which emerged from a merger of al-Qaeda's Yemeni and Saudi franchises in 2009 - is the most active and dangerous in the world.

    ''Awlaki is dead but he laid down the seeds for a long battle," a source close to AQAP told me. "The group's Inspire publication is even better than what it was before.

    ''The Americans and Europeans fear AQAP, and they have their eyes on their activities all the time."

    Many will remember that it was Awlaki who first made the case for independent attacks by individuals or ''lone wolves''.

    Judging from the claims made about the Kouachi brothers' role in the Charlie Hebdo killings, Awlaki and AQAP appear to have succeeded in attracting and inspiring recruits.


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