Both brothers who carried out the attack against satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo last week travelled to Yemen via Oman in 2011 and had weapons training in the deserts of Marib, an al Qaeda stronghold, two senior Yemeni sources said on Sunday.
The news came as hundreds of thousands of people, along with politicians from around the world, marched in memory of the victims.
Yemeni officials confirmed that both Cherif and Said Kouachi, who carried out the bloodiest attack on the West in decades, had visited Yemen, where Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is based. One Yemeni source had previously confirmed a visit by Said Kouachi.
Evidence also points to the involvement of another armed group, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Amedy Coulibaly, who killed four hostages at a kosher grocery Friday and died when police raided the store, pledged allegiance to ISIL in a seven-minute video posted by the group Sunday.
“I pledged allegiance to the Caliph as soon as the caliphate was declared,” he says, referring to ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, whose group in the Middle East.
The group, which has seized territory in Syria and Iraq, became the target last year of bombing by a United States-led coalition that includes France.
A concerted Yemeni government campaign last year against AQAP figures, and repeated U.S. drone strikes, had created a belief that the group lacked the capability to launch any major attacks abroad. AQAP has managed, however, to target Westerners, including French citizens, in Yemen in the past year.
“These two brothers arrived in Oman on July 25, 2011, and from Oman they were smuggled into Yemen, where they stayed for two weeks,” said a senior Yemeni security official who declined to be named. “They met (Al-Qaeda preacher) Anwar al-Awlaki and then they were trained for three days in the deserts of Marib on how to fire a gun. They returned to Oman and they left Oman on Aug. 15, 2011 to go back to France.”
Al-Awlaki, an influential recruiter, was killed by a suspected U.S. drone strike in 2011.
As the Paris attack unfolded Friday, Cherif Kouachi told a French television station that he had received financing from Awlaki and that he had been “sent” by AQAP.
The Kouachi brothers were shot dead by French security forces after they took refuge in a printing plant outside Paris, near Charles de Gaulle airport.
Meanwhile, the fourth person identified by French police as having ties to the attacks, Coulibaly’s wife, Hayat Boumediene, travelled to Syria on Jan. 2, just before the Paris attacks, Turkish officials said Saturday.
Al Jazeera and wire services