Al Qaida owns up to Paris massacre

Home Secretary Theresa May makes a statement on the Paris shootings in the House of Commons
Home Secretary Theresa May makes a statement on the Paris shootings in the House of Commons
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AL QAIDA terrorists have claimed to be behind the bloody attacks on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris as its first issue to be released after the atrocities sold out across France.

As queues formed to buy the magazine, the leader of al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), in Yemen, said his group was responsible for the murders - claiming the massacre was “vengeance for the prophet”.

AQAP - one of the most active of al Qaida’s branches, which has reportedly been the target of a number of US drone strikes - was in contact with the fanatics who murdered soldier Lee Rigby in 2013.

AQAP leader Nasr al-Ansi said the branch had chosen, planned and financed the assault on Charlie Hebdo’s offices that shocked the world last week.

But in defiance of the gunmen who slaughtered 12 people at its offices, the magazine has published a new issue, which carries a front-cover cartoon of a crying Prophet Mohammed.

Three million copies of the magazine are being printed, its largest-ever run, with translations into English, Spanish and Arabic, and versions available in the UK, Italy and Turkey.

The first batch of around 500,000 copies was quickly snapped up by customers and it has been reported that the print run is being increased to five million to be distributed throughout the next fortnight.

A handful of copies are expected to be available in the UK by the end of the week, although some have already found their way on to eBay where they are attracting four-figure bids, well in excess of the modest three-euro (£2.30) cover price.

In the UK, Home Secretary Theresa May told the House of Commons it was “highly probable” that communications data was used in Paris to locate the suspects and establish links between the two terrorist attacks.

Mrs May once again claimed the blocked Communications Data bill - dubbed by critics the Snoopers Charter - is needed to protect the public and save lives.

Meanwhile, France ordered prosecutors around the country to crack down on hate speech, anti-semitism and glorifying terrorism, announcing that 54 people had been arrested for those offences since the Paris terror attacks.

In a message distributed to all French prosecutors and judges, the Justice Ministry laid out the legal basis for rounding up those who defend the Paris terror attacks as well as those responsible for racist or anti-semitic words or acts.

Among those detained was Dieudonne, a controversial popular comedian with repeated convictions for racism and anti-semitism.

In a Facebook post, Dieudonne combined the name of the magazine and Amedy Coulibaly, the gunman who seized a kosher market and killed four hostages, saying he felt like “Charlie Coulibaly”.

Dieudonne fell under the UK spotlight when footballer Nicolas Anelka of West Bromwich Albion performed the quenelle - a gesture created by Dieudonne, which has been interpreted as an inverted Nazi salute - to celebrate scoring a goal in 2013.

Interest in the new edition of Charlie Hebdo prompted more than 50 British Muslim leaders to appeal for calm from the Islamic community in response to the cartoon.

In an open letter, the imams and religious leaders write: “With dignified nobility we must be restrained, as the Koran says ‘And when the ignorant speak to them, they say words of peace’.

“Most Muslims will inevitably be hurt, offended and upset by the republication of the cartoons. But our reaction must be a reflection of the teachings of the gentle and merciful character of the prophet (peace be upon him).

“Enduring patience, tolerance, gentleness and mercy, as was the character of our beloved prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is the best and immediate way to respond.”

It comes the day after funerals in Paris and Jerusalem for some of the 17 people killed in the terror attacks, including the three police officers gunned down.

Charlie Hebdo editor-in-chief Gerard Biard said the latest edition had been “drawn up in pain and joy”.

The magazine shows Mohammed against a green background with a tear streaming down his cheek, holding a sign reading Je Suis Charlie - the I Am Charlie rallying cry that has been used as a show of unity in the wake of the attacks.

The headline carries the phrase Tout Est Pardonne (All Is Forgiven), which French media have interpreted to mean Mohammed is forgiving the cartoonists for lampooning him.

The exact number of copies of the magazine that will be on sale in the United Kingdom is not yet known, although it is reckoned to be at least 1,000.

Wholesalers Smiths News, Comag and Menzies Distribution said they would be distributing it.

But retailer WH Smith said it would not be selling the magazine as it does not usually stock the title.