One of the two brothers suspected of killing 12 people at a satirical newspaper in Paris traveled to Yemen in 2011 and received terrorist training from Al Qaeda’s affiliate there before returning to France, a senior American official said on Thursday.
The suspect, Saïd Kouachi, 34, spent “a few months” training in small arms combat, marksmanship and other skills that appeared to be on display in videos of the military-style attack on Wednesday carried out by at least two gunmen on the offices of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper.
Mr. Kouachi’s training came at a time when many other young Muslim men in the West were inspired by Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric who by 2011 had become a senior operational figure for the terrorist group, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
A United States intelligence official said on Thursday that both brothers were in the United States database of known or suspected terrorists, and were on an American no-fly list for years.
The Kouachi brothers have been under scrutiny for years by French and American officials. Saïd Kouachi’s younger brother, Chérif, first came to the attention of the French authorities as a possible terrorist a decade ago, when he was in his early 20s. He was detained in 2005 as he prepared to leave for Syria, the first leg of a trip he hoped would take him to Iraq.
American intelligence and counterterrorism officials on Thursday were still trying to determine whether the Qaeda affiliate in Yemen had explicitly ordered the attack, although there was no indication so far that the brothers had received direct orders from the group or were part of a larger cell in France.
But a recent issue of “Inspire” — the propaganda magazine published by the Qaeda affiliate in Yemen — encouraged its followers to attack Westerners who have insulted the Muslim faith. It identified Charlie Hebdo’s top editor, Stéphane Charbonnier, whose name appears in a two-page spread under the heading, “A Bullet a Day Keeps the Infidel Away — Defend the Prophet Muhammad.”