8 May 2015

Strike kills leader who claimed Paris attack

10:33 am on 8 May 2015

A US operation has killed the senior Al Qaeda figure who issued a claim of responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, reports say.

Intelligence sources quoted Al Qaeda as saying in an online video that Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi was killed, along with his eldest son and other fighters in Yemen.

Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi, shown in a social media video posted by the group.

Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi, shown in a social media video posted by the group. Photo: YouTube screenshot

US sources told Reuters that Washington believed Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi was the Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) commander of northern Yemen, and that no civilians had been killed.

His death would suggest the covert American drone programme against the Yemen branch of Al Qaeda is continuing, despite the evacuation of American military advisers from the country amid a worsening civil war.

Ansi, an ideologue and former fighter, had appeared in several of the group's videos. In a message on 14 January he said of the 7 January attack in Paris that the "one who chose the target, laid the plan and financed the operation is the leadership of the organisation", without naming an individual.

A week later, he called for lone-wolf attacks in Western countries like America, Britain, Canada and France, as such operations were "better and more harmful".

In the Paris attack, 17 people, including journalists and police, were killed in three days of violence, including a mass shooting at the weekly Charlie Hebdo, known for its satirical attacks on Islam and other religions.

The attackers, two French-born brothers of Algerian origin, singled out the magazine for its publication of cartoons depicting and ridiculing the Prophet Mohammad. The bloodshed ended on 9 January with a hostage-taking at a Jewish shop in which four hostages and the gunman were killed.

Ansi had also called for Yemeni Sunnis to confront the Houthi militia which has taken over large parts of Yemen since September. Al Qaeda views Houthis as heretics since they belong to a branch of Shi'ite Islam.

He had fought in Bosnia in the 1990s and worked for Al Qaeda in the Philippines and Afghanistan.

On 14 April, AQAP announced that one of its leaders, Ibrahim al-Rubaish, had been killed by a US air strike. Rubaish was a Saudi national released from the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in 2006.

The United States has poured aid and personnel into Yemen in recent years as part of its war on Islamist militants.

But it withdrew military personnel and pulled out of the military base it was using in Yemen last month, as Iran-allied Shi'ite Muslim Houthi fighters advanced, plunging the impoverished country further into chaos.

- Reuters

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