Explainers

8 things about Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

A member of an affiliate of the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen. --PHOTO: REUTERS
A member of an affiliate of the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen. --PHOTO: REUTERS

One of the two brothers involved in Wednesday's attack and killing of the top staff of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo reportedly trained with the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a Sunni militant organisation, which has been described as Al-Qaeda's most dangerous arm. Cherif Kouachi, 32, reportedly traveled to Yemen in 2011 and received training from the Al-Qaeda affiliate before returning to France, according to US officials. Cherif spoke to BMFTV, a CNN affiliate in France, and said he had been sent there by AQAP.

A handout photo released by the French police shows Cherif Kouachi, who was one of the two brothers involved in the attack at a satirical weekly in the French capital that killed at least 12 people. --PHOTO: AFP"I was sent, me, Cherif Kouachi, by Al-Qaeda in Yemen. I went there and Sheikh Anwar al-Awlaki financed my trip," he said. Cherif made these remarks to a journalist from BMFTV while he and his brother were holed up in a printing factory, after the attack on Charlie Hebdo.

Asked to explain when he met with Awlaki, Cherif said "a while ago".

The Yemeni-American Al-Qaeda leader Awlaki was killed in a US drone strike in late September 2011. He had many followers around the world, including at least three in Singapore who were detained by authorities.  

Here are some of the things we know about AQAP:

(1) AQAP was formed in January 2009 as a merger of the Yemeni and Saudi branches of Al-Qaeda and is led by Nasser al-Wuhayshi, who was a close aide of Osama bin Laden.(2) It has a record of launching attacks far from its base in Yemen, including a bid to blow up a US airliner over Michigan on Christmas Day in 2009.(3) The group recently called for its supporters to carry out attacks in France, which is part of a US-led coalition conducting air strikes against Islamic State group jihadists in Iraq and Syria.(4) AQAP’s English-language propaganda magazine “Inspire” has urged jihadists to carry out “lone wolf” attacks abroad. (5) In 2013, it named Charlie Hebdo cartoonist and editor-in-chief Stephane Charbonnier among its list of targets. Charbonnier was one of 12 people killed in Paris on Wednesday by two gunmen - Cherif and his brother Said Kouachi, 34 - who stormed the magazine’s offices.(6) In 2009, an AQAP suicide bomber tried to assassinate Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the oil-rich kingdom’s current interior minister, who had led a crackdown on the militant group between 2003 and 2006. The prince escaped with light wounds and the bomber was the only fatality.(7) In November 2010, the group claimed responsibility for sending parcel bombs to the United States and putting a bomb aboard a UPS cargo plane that crashed two months earlier in Dubai.

(8) Wuhayshi in July 2011 reaffirmed the group's allegiance to Ayman al-Zawahiri, head of the worldwide Al-Qaeda network since the death of bin Laden in May 2011.Source: AFP, Long War Journal, The Straits Times archives