Rumors of connections to Yemen and terror networks in Iraq arose almost as soon as officials released the identities of the gunmen in the Charlie Hebdo massacre. One surviving witness to the shooting stated that the terrorists cheered their avenging of “the Prophet,” and claimed to be acting on behalf of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the same network where Anwar al-Awlaki recruited “lone wolf” attackers. Allahpundit noted the early reports that at least one of the three suspects did prison time for recruiting fighters for the war in Iraq, which CBS confirms this morning:
Former CIA deputy director Mike Morrell says that AQAP appears to have directed this operation:
CBS News has learned that the two brothers suspected in the massacre at a French satirical newspaper this week have connections to Yemen, and previous links to al Qaeda in Iraq.
It was not immediately clear whether it was Said or Cherif Kouachi, both in their early 30s, who travelled to Yemen in 2011. But a senior intelligence source told CBS News on Thursday that both men are known long-term jihadists, and were known to French officials.
One of the men was convicted in 2008 of recruiting fighters in France to go and fight in Iraq. He was jailed for 18 months. …
CBS News contributor and former deputy CIA director Mike Morrell said Thursday on “CBS This Morning” that, given the apparent link to Yemen, “there’s a good possibility we’re looking at an al Qaeda in Yemen-directed attack.”
Morrell notes that the style of attack was “very sophisticated,” and speculated that one received training from AQAP, and presumably trained his accomplices. Both he and John Miller dismiss the possibility of this being a true “lone wolf” attack and believe it to be a planned target and assigned operation. Morrell also notes that AQAP is “in competition” with ISIS, but that doesn’t quite match up with the track record of the one brother who did prison time. If he was recruiting for al-Qaeda in Iraq, that group is now ISIS. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the two networks compete for resources, but they’re not competing against each other in any meaningful ideological or strategic context.
Meanwhile, the French police are still hot on the trail of the two brothers. The search has shifted to the northern suburbs of Paris, where officials believe they conducted an armed robbery. Police have detained seven people connected to the brothers, although it’s not clear yet whether police think they were involved in the plot:
French anti-terrorism police converged on an area northeast of Paris on Thursday after two brothers suspected of being behind an attack on a satirical newspaper were spotted at a petrol station in the region.
France’s prime minister said on Thursday he feared the Islamist militants who killed 12 people could strike again as a manhunt for two men widened across the country.
Two police sources said that the men were seen armed and wearing cagoules in a Renault Clio car at a petrol station on a secondary road in Villiers-Cotterets some 70 kilometers from the French capital.
Amid French media reports the men had abandoned their car, Bruno For tier, the mayor of neighboring Crépy-en-Valois, said helicopters were circling his town and police and anti-terrorism forces were deploying en masse.
This won’t come as a surprise to anyone, if it turns out to be accurate:
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) January 8, 2015
More as it develops.