UPDATED — A source within al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has provided The Intercept with a full statement claiming responsibility for the attack against the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris:

Some ask the relationship between Al-Qaeda Organization and the (brothers) who carried out the #CharlieHebdo operation. Was it direct? Was the operation supervised by the Al-Qaeda wing in the Arabian Peninsula?

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.

The Organization delayed to claim responsibility due to the executors’ security reasons. Nevertheless, the operation carries a number of important messages to all the Western countries.

One: Touching Muslims’ sanctity and protecting those who make blasphemy have dear price and the punishment will be severe.

Two: The crimes of the Western countries, above them America, Britain and France will backfire deep in their home.

Three: The policy of hitting the snake’s head followed by the Al-Qaeda organization under the leadership of Adhawahiri is still achieving its goals; until the West retreats.

Four: The inspiring media policies of the Mujahideen of Al-Qaeda especially of Inspire Magazine has greatly succeeded in identifying its targets and collecting powers.

One of the cartoonists’ name and photo were put down in Inspire’s wanted poster, dead or alive. The Western regimes should wait for harm and destruction by the Might of Allah.

I hope the brothers will distribute these tweets and translate them so that they reach the greatest audience. {And Allah has full power and control over His Affairs, but most of men know not.}

Arabic-language excerpts from the statement are being circulated widely on Twitter. AQAP has not made any claims of responsibility through its official communication channels. A prominent AQAP cleric released an audio recording today praising the attack, but made no reference to AQAP playing an operational role. [Update: Shortly after The Intercept published this statement, an AQAP official, Bakhsaruf al-Danqaluh, tweeted, in Arabic, the exact paragraphs the AQAP source provided us. This is still not an official AQAP claim of responsibility, but it suggests such a statement may be forthcoming or is being internally debated within the group.]

Earlier in the afternoon, a source within al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula gave The Intercept a separate message praising the attack on Charlie Hebdo. “The lions of Jihad have stood. The followers of Muhammad – peace be upon him – have never forgotten,” the message declared. “Do not look for links or affiliation with Jihadi fronts. It is enough they are Muslims. They are Mujahideen. This is the Jihad of the Ummah. So France, are you ready for more attacks?”

From the Winter 2014 issue of AQAP’s Inspire, a Muslim prays next to a pressure cooker, above an image of a French passport.

The source, who demanded anonymity because the group had not yet released an official statement, also told The Intercept that two images in the latest issue of its publication, Inspire, published in December, contained a clue foreshadowing the attack on Charlie Hebdo. One image (at right, click to enlarge) shows a Muslim kneeling in prayer with a cooking pot similar to the one used by the Boston marathon bombers. “If you have the knowledge and inspiration all that’s left is to take action.” On the page immediately below it is a picture of a French passport. Throughout the day, several AQAP members have been praising the attack on social media and discussion sites. An AQAP source pointed The Intercept to a recording they claim is Cherif Kouachi, one of the suspects, acknowledging that his trips to Yemen in 2011 were “financed” by U.S.-born radical imam Anwar al Awlaki and that he was sent to Yemen by AQAP.

The full message provided by the AQAP source, which references Inspire‘s previous threats to attack media outlets that publish demeaning pictures of the Prophet Muhammad, is here:

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech! Journalist! Newspaper! It is a war on freedom of speech. It is a war on journalism. These words kept belching out of many mouths. All are well aware of what this magazine published. “It was just satirical,” some argued. I find it funny how this type of people think. “It is a crime for a journalist to be killed,” they claim … I would like to pose some questions to them:

Was it a crime to kill Sheikh Anwar Al-‘Awlaki for his da’wah?

Was it a crime to kill Samir Khan for being a member of Inspire Team?

Was it a crime to kill Fuad Al-Hadhrami, the brother who accompanied journalists in S.Yemen?

Charlie Hebdo’s editor-in-chief Gerard Biard remarked he didn’t “understand how people can attack a newspaper with heavy weapons. A newspaper is not a weapon of war.” Isn’t Inspire a magazine? Are we to conclude that drones and missiles aren’t heavy weapons?

Where are your values in that regard?

The Charlie magazine team deserved what they got. Many warnings have been given before, but they were persistent. They had the freedom to use cartoons in their magazine, and we have the freedom to use bullets from our magazines. As the ‘Wanted List’ stated: A bullet a day, keeps the kaffir away. Yes, Charb is no more. The lions of Jihad have stood. The followers of Muhammad – peace be upon him – have never forgotten. As Sheikh Anwar Rahimahullah put it: The Dust Will Never Settle Down.

Do not look for links or affiliation with Jihadi fronts. It is enough they are Muslims. They are Mujahideen. This is the Jihad of the Ummah. So France, are you ready for more attacks; Weren’t you asked by Inspire Magazine immediately after the Wanted List:

So, why is France so thick in learning from its past mistakes? Is it leaving Paris undefended once again? Woe upon you from tens of Muhammad Merah!

You come third in the target list, after US and Britain. If I were the latter, I would rather pull my sleeves up.

Earlier in the day, the French government announced that the suspects in the Charlie Hebdo massacre have been killed following a stand-off at a printing plant outside of Paris. U.S. and French intelligence agencies are aggressively investigating the travel history and associations of the two brothers, Said and Cherif Kouachi. The brothers both claim to have spent time in Yemen. Agence France Press reports that Said traveled multiple times to Yemen from 2009-2013 and studied at Sana’a’s Iman University, founded by radical preacher Abdel Majid al-Zindani.

A senior Yemeni intelligence official told Reuters that Said traveled to Yemen in 2011 and met with Awlaki, who was infamous for his sermons and writings calling for Muslims in Western countries to conduct terrorist attacks. Anonymous U.S. officials have alleged in various news reports that Said received training from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and a witness to the shooting told French media that one of the shooters claimed that they were from AQAP. “We do not have confirmed information that he was trained by al Qaeda but what was confirmed was that he has met with Awlaki in Shabwah,” the Yemeni official told Reuters. Awlaki, along with another U.S. citizen, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in northern Yemen ordered by President Obama in September 2011.

Said Kouachi

A senior Yemeni official told The Intercept that the French government has not yet formally requested the Yemeni government’s assistance or cooperation in their investigation. “France has not approached us in any official way yet,” the official said. “The [Yemeni] government is waiting for a French inquiry.”

The Intercept granted the Yemeni official anonymity because he is not authorized to speak about the matter absent an official French inquiry and because anonymous U.S. and Yemeni officials are making contradictory claims. The official said that many French nationals have traveled to Yemen, sometimes on passports from other nations.

Awlaki was very public in his calls for assassinating cartoonists and attacking media outlets that published demeaning images of Prophet Mohammed.

***

In June 2010, AQAP published its first issue of an English language publication, Inspire. “Allah says: ‘And inspire the believers to fight,’” read the opening line of the letter from Inspire’s unnamed editor. “It is from this verse that we derive the name of our new magazine.” Inspire, the editor wrote, was “the first magazine to be issued by the al-Qaeda Organization in the English language. In the West; in East, West and South Africa; in South and Southeast Asia and elsewhere are millions of Muslims whose first or second language is English. It is our intent for this magazine to be a platform to present the important issues facing the ummah [community] today to the wide and dispersed English speaking Muslim readership.”

The issue of Inspire featured an “exclusive” interview with the head of AQAP, Nasir al Wuhayshi, also known as Abu Basir, as well as translated works from bin Laden and Zawahiri. It also included an essay praising Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the failed underwear bomber. The magazine was well produced, with a layout that resembled a typical U.S. teen magazine, though without fashionably dressed women and celebrities. Instead, it featured photos of children alleged to have been killed in U.S. missile strikes and pictures of armed, masked jihadis. An article written under the byline “AQ Chef” and titled “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom” provided instructions on how to manufacture explosive devices from basic household goods. Another article gave detailed directions on how to download military-grade encryption software for sending e-mails and text messages.

Perhaps most disturbing, the magazine contained a “Hit List” of people who it alleged had created “blasphemous caricatures” of the Prophet Muhammad. In late 2005, the Danish publication Jyllands-Posten commissioned a dozen cartoons of the Prophet, ostensibly to contribute to a debate about self-censorship within Islam. It had enraged Muslims across the world at the time, sparked massive protests and resulted in death threats and bomb threats against the newspaper. The hit list published by Inspire included magazine editors, anti-Muslim pundits who had defended the cartoons, as well as the novelist Salman Rushdie. But it also included Molly Norris, a Seattle-based cartoonist who initiated “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.” Norris said she did it in response to the U.S. Comedy Central network’s decision to edit out a scene in its popular animated program South Park that addressed the controversy, after receiving a threat.

Anwar Al-Awlaki at Dar al Hijrah Mosque on October 4 2001 in Falls Church, VA. (Photo by Tracy Woodward/The Washington Post).

Anwar Al-Awlaki

Inspire’s hit list was accompanied by an essay penned by Awlaki encouraging Muslims to attack those who defame the image of Mohammed. “I would like to express my thanks to my brothers at Inspire for inviting me to write the main article for the first issue of their new magazine. I would also like to commend them for having this subject, the defense of the Messenger of Allah, as the main focus of this issue,” Awlaki wrote. He then laid out a defense for assassinating those who engaged in blasphemy of Mohammed. “The large number of participants makes it easier for us because there are more targets to choose from in addition to the difficulty of the government offering all of them special protection.” He continued:

“But even then our campaign should not be limited to only those who are active participants. These perpetrators are not operating in a vacuum. Instead they are operating within a system that is offering them support and protection. The government, political parties, the police, the intelligence services, blogs, social networks, the media, and the list goes on, are part of a system within which the defamation of Islam is not only protected but promoted. The main elements in this system are the laws that make this blasphemy legal. Because they are practicing a “right” that is defended by the law, they have the backing of the entire Western political system. This would make the attacking of any Western target legal from an Islamic viewpoint….Assassinations, bombings, and acts of arson are all legitimate forms of revenge against a system that relishes the sacrilege of Islam in the name of freedom.”

When Inspire was published, some within the U.S. intelligence community panicked. The first concern was protecting the people who had been identified as targets for assassination. The FBI took immediate precautions to guard the Seattle cartoonist, whom they feared could be murdered. She eventually changed her name and moved. Law enforcement agencies in other countries took similar measures.

***

If Awlaki met with Said Kouachi in Yemen, it would not be the first time he met with young Muslims who went on to attempt or conduct terrorist attacks. In the aftermath of the failed Christmas day attack on an airplane over Detroit, the young Nigerian man who attempted to detonate an explosive device sewn into his underwear was presented as an AQAP operative who had been sent on a suicide mission by Anwar Awlaki. Yemeni intelligence officials told the United States that Abdulmutallab had traveled to Awlaki’s tribal area of Shabwah in October 2009. There, they say, he hooked up with members of AQAP. A U.S. government source said that the National Security Agency had intercepted “voice-to-voice communication” between Abdulmutallab and Awlaki in the fall of 2009 and had determined that Awlaki “was in some way involved in facilitating this guy’s transportation or trip through Yemen. It could be training, a host of things. I don’t think we know for sure,” the anonymous source told the Washington Post.

A local tribal leader from Shabwah, Mullah Zabara, later told me he had seen the young Nigerian at the farm of Fahd al Quso, the alleged USS Cole bombing conspirator. “He was watering trees,” Zabara told me. “When I saw [Abdulmutallab], I asked Fahd, ‘Who is he?’” Quso told Zabara the young man was from a different part of Yemen, which Zabara knew was a lie. “When I saw him on TV, then Fahd told me the truth.”

UNSPECIFIED - UNDATED: This undated handout image provided by the U.S. Marshals Service on December 28, 2009 shows Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Abdulmutallab, 23, is a Nigerian man suspected of attempting to blow up Northwest 253 flight as it was landing in Detroit on Christmas day.  (Photo by U.S. Marshals Service via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

Awlaki’s role in the “underwear plot” was unclear. Awlaki later claimed that Abdulmutallab was one of his “students.” U.S. officials insist Awlaki played an operational role in the plot. Tribal sources in Shabwah told me that al Qaeda operatives reached out to Awlaki to give religious counseling to Abdulmutallab, but that Awlaki was not involved in the plot. While praising the attack, Awlaki said he had not been involved with its conception or planning. “Yes, there was some contact between me and him, but I did not issue a fatwa allowing him to carry out this operation,” Awlaki told journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye in an interview for Al Jazeera a few weeks after the attempted attack: “I support what Umar Farouk has done after I have been seeing my brothers being killed in Palestine for more than sixty years, and others being killed in Iraq and in Afghanistan. And in my tribe too, U.S. missiles have killed” women and “children, so do not ask me if al-Qaeda has killed or blown up a US civil[ian] jet after all this. The 300 Americans are nothing comparing to the thousands of Muslims who have been killed.”

Part of this article was adapted from Jeremy Scahill’s book, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield.

Photo: Michel Euler/AP; Kouachi: Direction centrale de la Police judiciaire/Getty; Al-Awlaki: Tracy Woodward/The Washington Post/Getty; Abdulmutallab: U.S. Marshals/Getty