Infamous Algerian fighter and former al-Qaeda member Mokhtar Belmokhtar has praised the Paris shooting at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and urged Muslims to carry out similar attacks.
Belmokhtar, whose terrorist cell led a deadly raid in Algeria\'s Amenas gas in January 2013 killing 37 oil contractors, said Islamist attacks were in retribution for French military action against jihadist groups in Africa\'s Sahel-Sahara region, according to a statement distributed on militant online forums.
He called the Kouachi brothers, who killed 12 people in the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, \"our best knights\".
Site monitoring service, which analyses hundreds of Islamist videos and statements every day, said Belmokhtar\'s comments were published by the al-Mourabitoun Islamist group and a militant armed force known as the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa.
Dubbed \"The Uncatchable\" or \"Mr Marlboro\", because of his role in cigarette-smuggling across the Sahel, Belmokhtar is a former al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) member and is on the wanted list for masterminding the In Amenas BP gas plant siege in which 37 people, including six Britons, were killed.
Belmokhtar, who formed his own militia in 2012, is also accused of organising two suicide attacks in Niger, targeting a military base in Agadez and the French-run uranium mine in Arlit that killed at least 25 people.
His militia joined ranks with another al-Qaeda spinoff, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) Mujao to form a group known as al-Murabitoun, which has pledged to take revenge against France for its military campaign in Mali.