Bobby Ghosh contemplates the French terrorists’ connections to the global terrorist groups:
At least one of the Kouachi brothers, the gunmen in the Charlie Hebdomassacre, traveled to Yemen to train with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, and U.S. officials believe the attack was ordered by the group’s high command. But Amedy Coulibaly, who carried out several other attacks in conjunction with the Kouachis, including taking hostages at a kosher supermarket, had pledged loyalty to ISIS.
If there’s a difference between al-Qaeda and ISIS, it was lost on these men. The brothers Kouachi attacked Charlie Hebdo because of its cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Coulibaly said he was motivated by France’s role in the war against ISIS. But their allegiances and affiliations didn’t prevent them from working together, from killing together.
How Keating understands the cooperation:
While ISIS and al-Qaida, as centralized organizations, may be sworn enemies, things may be more fluid for their adherents around the world, who share a common ideology and common goals. As the counterterrorism researcher Thomas Hegghammer wrote on Twitter today, the dual claims in Paris suggest that “some jihadis relate to IS/AQ like football teams. You can support different clubs and still watch game together.” Certainly, supporters of the two groups online seem to be reacting to the events in Paris with common enthusiasm.
Jeremy Scahill lends his perspective:
AQAP and ISIS have been engaged in a very public and bitter feud on social media and through official communications for the past year. While not impossible, it is unlikely that AQAP and ISIS at a high level agreed to cooperate on such a mission. An AQAP source told me that the group supports what Coulibaly did and that it does not matter what group — if any — assisted him, just that he was a Muslim who took the action. ISIS, clearly seeking to capitalize on the events in Paris, has now reportedly issued a call for its supporters to attack police forces. Of course, it is also plausible that all three of the men received some degree of outside help, but created their own cells to plot the Paris attacks. Whether Coulibaly was actually working with the Kouachi brothers or was inspired by their attack is also unknown.
For now, we have little more than verified statements from an AQAP source, a claim of responsibility from an ISIS figure and words of praise from both ISIS and some key AQAP figures. Taking responsibility for the attacks, whether true or not, could aid either group in fundraising and in elevating its prominence in the broader jihadist movement globally.