A new video has been posted online showing Amedy Coulibaly, who killed a French policewoman and attacked a kosher market in Paris last week, pledging allegiance to the Islamic State and its emir Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. The video does not appear to have been produced by the Islamic State, as it does not bear any of the group’s usual markings.
The video was first obtained by the SITE Intelligence Group, which notes that it was released by jihadists “linked” to the Islamic State.
Coulibaly is identified as “Abou Bassir AbdAllah al-Irfiqi” and as a “soldier of the Caliphate” in the opening screen shots.
Coulibaly trains for the attacks, doing pushups and other exercises, in the opening scenes of the video. Weapons and ammunition are displayed on a floor.
The video then cuts to footage of Coulibaly sitting in front of the Islamic State’s black banner. At times, he reads from a prepared statement. Coulibaly claims that his actions are completely “legitimate,” as he and the terrorists responsible for attacking Charlie Hebdo are “avenging the Prophet.”
He mentions the international coalition’s war against the Islamic State.
Parts of the video were recorded before last week’s attacks began, but some of the production appears to have been put together as the manhunt for Coulibaly and the other terrorists was ongoing.
The video suggests that Coulibaly had one or more accomplices, in addition to the Kouachi brothers, as the footage was clearly spliced together after his death to explain his involvement and motivations. Authorities are currently looking for his girlfriend or wife, who is believed to have traveled to Turkey or Syria.
Coulibaly claims to have coordinated his actions with the Kouachi brothers, who separately assaulted the offices of Charlie Hebdo.
The claims made by Coulibaly in the video are consistent with an interview he gave to a French television channel shortly before he was killed. Coulibaly told BMFTV, an affiliate of CNN in France, that he served the Islamic State and worked in concert with the Kouachi brothers.
Investigators are puzzled by Coulibaly’s claim of allegiance to the Islamic State, because Cherif and Said Kouachi said they were sent by al Qaeda in Yemen, a reference to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). In his own, separate interview with BMFTV, Cherif Kouachi also explained that he had been in contact with Anwar al Awlaki, an AQAP cleric. [See LWJ report, Paris terrorist reportedly claimed ties to Anwar al Awlaki, AQAP.]
Numerous press accounts published in the past few days have explored the Kouachi brothers’ ties to AQAP.
At senior leadership levels, AQAP and the Islamic State are bitter rivals. AQAP rejects the Islamic State’s claim to rule as a “caliphate” stretching over large parts of Iraq and Syria. And the Islamic State claims to have expanded its presence into Saudi Arabia and Yemen, thereby usurping the authority of all other jihadists, including AQAP.
Both groups have traded sharp verbal barbs in the ongoing debate between the two sides. Harith al Nadhari, a senior AQAP ideologue who praised the massacre at Charlie Hebdo’s offices in an audio message, is a staunch critic of the Islamic State.
But the relationship between Coulibaly and the Kouachi brothers predates the rivalry between the Islamic State and al Qaeda by many years. It is possible that their longstanding friendship trumped the jihadists’ leadership disputes when it came time for them to act.
Unverified statements attributed to AQAP have claimed responsibility for the attack on Charlie Hebdo, but not Coulibaly’s shooting of a French policewoman and assault on a kosher market. Western officials continue to explore the extent of AQAP’s involvement with the Kouachi brothers.