Norwegian authorities this week arrested a radical preacher who publicly praised the two gunmen who launched the deadly attack on the headquarters of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Najmaddin Faraj Ahmad, aka Mullah Krekar, appeared on the Norwegian television station NRK Wednesday, when he lauded the attack in Paris Jan. 7. The gunmen killed 12 people over the magazine’s publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
“I am obviously happy with what happened in Paris,” Krekar said during an interview, according to Agence France-Presse. He also noted that “those who draw caricatures of Muhammad must die.” In addition, he answered, “Yes,” when questioned whether he thought the gunmen were heroes.
“They defended their dignity, their sacredness,” he said of the gunmen, according to the Kurdish news network Rudaw. “They were the genuine jihadists.”
Norwegian authorities arrested Krekar at his Oslo home Thursday on preliminary charges of inciting to commit criminal offense, the Associated Press reported. A court ruled Friday he would remain in custody for as long as four weeks and referenced his role as an “authority in the Kurdish jihadist movement” as a factor in its decision, the Wall Street Journal said.
The arrest came just a month after Krekar finished a 34-month prison term for allegedly making death threats against three Kurds, as well as Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.
Krekar, who was born in Iraq, was formerly a leader of the Iraqi militant group Ansar al-Islam, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization. Krekar said he had not led the group since 2002. Last year, Ansar al-Islam merged with the Islamic State group active in Iraq and Syria.
Krekar originally immigrated to Norway as a refugee in 1991. According to AFP, Norwegian authorities labeled Krekar a national-security threat in 2003, and he has faced deportation since then. Courts have prohibited his return to Iraq because he faces the death penalty there.