The two Muslim brothers who committed the recent terrorist attack in Paris, France, have been linked to Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born imam, who joined Al Qaeda in Yemen and was killed by a CIA drone attack in 2011.
When he was alive, Awlaki was the spokesperson of West of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which was created by Yemen and Saudi militants in 2009, notes the New York Times.
Said and Cherif Kouachi, the brothers who killed the 11 staff members of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, reportedly told eyewitnesses to “tell the media that this is Al Qaeda in Yemen.” If so, that would mean AQAP, not ISIS, was behind the attack.
“I, Cherif Kouachi, was sent by Al Qaeda in Yemen,” Cherif said in an audio broadcast by BFMTV in France. “I went there, and it was Sheikh Anwar al-Awlaki who financed me.”
Both Said and Cherif reportedly traveled to Yemen and were trained in firearms by AQAP and funded by Awlaki.
Awlaki was born in New Mexico, moved to London and made his residence in Yemen in 2004. He originally supported the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Aalaki became a popular cleric and was contracted by the U.S. government to advocate for America, but after he came out against the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the torture of Muslims in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, he was viewed as an enemy of the U.S.
Jeremy Scahill, a writer for The Intercept, recently told Democracy Now (video below) that the U.S. had "Awlaki put in prison inside of Yemen for 18 months, where he was held in solitary confinement for 17 of those months. He was interrogated by the FBI while in that prison. And then, when he was released, he was a totally changed man.”
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While President Obama has been criticized by Republicans for not attacking Islamic terrorists enough, it is actually his many drone attacks, and President Bush's actions, that motivated Awlaki and his followers.
A source within AQAP recently told Scahill at The Intercept:
"The leadership of #AQAP directed the operation, and they have chosen their target carefully as a revenge for the honor of Prophet (pbuh). The target was in France in particular because of its obvious role in the war on Islam and oppressed nations. The operation was the result of the threat of Sheikh Usama (RA). He warned the West about the consequences of the persistence in the blasphemy against Muslims’ sanctities. Sheikh Usama (RA) said in his message to the West: If there is no check on the freedom of your words, then let your hearts be open to the freedom of our actions."