Paris shooting: Veteran Algerian militant hails Charlie Hebdo killings, urges similar attacks

People visit a makeshift memorial near the headquarters of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo at the end of the unity rally "Marche Republicaine" on Jan 11, 2015 in Paris. A veteran Algerian militant and former Al-Qaeda fighter, Mokhtar Belmok
People visit a makeshift memorial near the headquarters of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo at the end of the unity rally "Marche Republicaine" on Jan 11, 2015 in Paris. A veteran Algerian militant and former Al-Qaeda fighter, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, praised the deadly assault on Charlie Hebdo and urged Muslims in the West to carry out similar attacks, a monitoring service said on Monday, Jan 12. -- PHOTO: AFP

DUBAI (Reuters) - Veteran Algerian militant and former Al-Qaeda fighter Mokhtar Belmokhtar praised a deadly assault on a French satirical newspaper and urged Muslims in the West to carry out similar attacks, a monitoring service said on Monday.

In a statement distributed on militant online forums, Belmokhtar said such strikes were justified by what he called Western aggression, including French military action, against Islamist armed groups in Africa's Sahel-Sahara region.

The SITE monitoring service said his statement was distributed by the al Mourabitoun Islamist group, formed in 2013 by fighters loyal to Belmokhtar and a militant armed force known as the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa.

Seventeen people were killed in three days of violence that began on Wednesday with a shooting attack by militant Islamists in Paris on the political weekly Charlie Hebdo, known for its satirical attacks on Islam and other religions.

In January 2013, militants led by Belmokhtar raided Algeria's Amenas gas plant near Libya's border, killing 40 oil contractors, most of them foreigners, in a four-day siege that ended when Algerian forces stormed the facility.