Attackers escape in Denmark attack against Swedish cartoonist

Attackers escape in Denmark attack against Swedish cartoonist
Attackers escape in Denmark attack against Swedish cartoonist
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The News Minute | February 15, 2015 | 09.20 am IST

One person was killed and three police officers injured here Saturday when gunmen opened fire at a meeting on blasphemy attended by cartoonist Lars Vilks who had courted controversy for his portrayals of the Prophet Mohammed.

The attackers fled the scene in a Volkswagen Polo vehicle, CNN reported, citing Copenhagen police. A hunt is on to nab the suspects.

The deceased has been identified as a 40-year-old Danish citizen, according to a Xinhua report, which cited the police.

The shooting reportedly occurred around 4.00 p.m. at a building in Copenhagen's Oesterbro district, where people, including Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks and French Ambassador to Denmark, Francois Zimeray had gathered for a meeting on "Art, Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression".

Dennis Meyhoff Brink, a satire researcher and Danish university professor, who was at the site during the shooting incident said that he heard about 30 shots as well as someone yelling in a foreign language.

"Everybody, of course, panicked in the room and tried to run," Brink told CNN, adding, "... We were just hiding ... and hoping for the best."

Police said in a press release that the three injured security officers were out of danger, and neither the Swedish cartoonist, nor the French ambassador was injured.

The 68-year-old Vilks has been under police protection since August 2007, when he published an extremely controversial caricature of the Prophet Muhammad in Swedish newspaper Nerikes Allehanda.

"It should be possible to insult all religions in a democratic way," he said then, adding, "If you insult one (religion), then you should insult the other ones," according to the CNN report.

Attacks on Vilks followed and two brothers were sentenced to prison terms in 2010 for trying to burn down the cartoonist's house in southern Sweden.

Three other people accused of plotting to murder Vilks at an art exhibition in the Swedish city of Gothenberg were acquitted two years later.

Vilks was one of nine faces on a "Most Wanted" graphic published by the Al Qaeda's Inspire magazine for "crimes against Islam", like the former editor of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, Stephane "Charb" Charbonnier, who was killed in a terrorist attack on his Paris office last month.

At a press conference, a Copenhagen police spokesman said that given Vilks' participation, it was very natural to assume that the shooting was a terror attack and it was being investigated as such, according to a Xinhua report.

A press release from the Danish Security and Intelligence Agency (PET) said that the shooting seemed planned.

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt concurred that it was a terrorist attack and said that her country would never bow to violence.

"Everything points to... the shooting in Oesterbro (being) a political assassination and therefore a terror attack," Thorning-Schmidt said.

"All resources will be used to find (those responsible) and bring them before a judge," she added.

"We have some difficult days ahead," the prime minister said. "... But in Denmark, we will never bow to violence."

Danes in Copenhagen and beyond quickly got support from around the world, including from the mayor of Paris -- who lived the same nightmare during the massacre at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, in which 12 people were killed.

"In the name of Parisians," Mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted, "I express my full support".

French President Francois Hollande expressed “France's full solidarity” following the attack and said that Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve would visit Copenhagen "as soon as possible".


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