In the aftermath of the tragic attacks in Paris last week, attention has quickly turned to any links that the homegrown French terrorists had with external groups. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has already claimed responsibility for the attacks, unsurprisingly given that investigators think the Kouachi brothers traveled to Yemen – home of AQAP – in 2011.
This hasn’t stopped other terrorist groups from chiming in as well – all using the incessant media spotlight on the attacks to seek publicity for their own group in an increasingly competitive environment strewn with inter-terrorist rivalries (al-Qaeda versus the Islamic State, al-Qaeda central versus the affiliates, AQIM-MUJAO-Ansar Dine- al-Mourabitoun…the list goes on).
Earlier this week, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb issued a new threat against France. Praising the Paris attackers as “the soldiers of Islam” and “heroes of the battle in Paris,” AQIM threatened more attacks. The statement noted, “France pays the cost of its violence on Muslim countries and the violation of their sanctity…As long as its soldiers occupy countries such as Mali and Central Africa and bombard our people in Syria and Iraq, and as long as its lame media continues to undermine our Prophet, France will expose itself to the worst and more.”
Not one to ever keep himself out of the spotlight, Mokhtar Belmokhtar followed suit on Wednesday. The leader of al-Mourabitoun issued a statement that praised the attacks, called the Kouachi brothers “two of the best fighters of Islam,” and warned “these attacks will not stop.” Rivalries aside, there is clear agreement that these attacks aimed to punish France, and so long as France’s foreign policy remains the same in the Middle East, they will continue to occur.
Of course neither AQIM nor al-Mourabitoun has yet managed to target France directly – and there have not been clear reports of any connections between homegrown French terrorists and these groups, though that is likely not for lack of trying. For the moment, these groups continue to remain a much greater threat to France’s North African allies, particularly in Mali, where they are trying to undo the successes of the French military operation in the North one attack at a time.
It also seems unlikely that the attack and these threats will do anything but strengthen France’s resolve to fight terrorism in North Africa and the Middle East, and increasingly at home. We can nevertheless expect the threats – both real and incendiary – and the terrorist propaganda to continue.