Tags: EU | Denmark | Shots

1 Dead in Shooting at Muhammad Cartoonist's Copenhagen Event

Saturday, 14 February 2015 11:30 AM EST

Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt urged Danes to gird for the “tough days” she said lay ahead after the Nordic nation was hit by what the government is treating as a terrorist attack.

One person died and three police officers were wounded on Saturday after a gunman opened fire at a Copenhagen cafe at which a debate on free speech had been planned. Police were still hunting the suspect late on Saturday.

“Everything points to this shooting” being “a terrorist attack,” Thorning-Schmidt said. It “fills me with deep anger.” It’s a “cynical act of violence,” she said. “But in Denmark, we will never cave in to violence.”

The event was attended by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, whose 2007 caricature of the Prophet Muhammad has made him a target of Islamist extremists. Vilks was led to safety after shots were heard and was unharmed, according to police. Law enforcement have now started a manhunt to catch the gunman.

The attack drew comparisons with Paris, where last month’s massacre at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo by men police say were radical Islamists has fueled debate on how Europe is dealing with challenges posed by immigration. As in France, Denmark’s anti-immigration group, the Danish People’s Party, has surged in the polls. After the shooting, France immediately sent its condolences to the Danish government.

Denmark has “all the solidarity of France in this ordeal,” according to an e-mailed statement from President Francois Hollande’s office. “Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve will travel to Copenhagen as soon as possible.”

Denmark is home to newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which in 2005 published a series of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that triggered violent protests across much of the Muslim world. Vilks’s drawing depicting Muhammad with the body of a dog left Swedish media divided, with some refusing to publish the image amid security concerns.

Vilks, 68, is kept under police protection. In January last year, Colleen LaRose, a Pennsylvania woman who used the alias “Jihad Jane,” was sentenced to 10 years in prison for her role in a plot to murder the Swedish artist. LaRose had pleaded guilty in February 2011 to conspiring to provide support to terrorists and commit murder in a foreign country.

Danish police, who initially said they were chasing two suspects, narrowed their hunt down to a single gunman who may have targeted Vilks. The gunman fled in a dark Volkswagen Polo which was later found. Swedish police are also on alert.

“We don’t yet know whether this was a terrorist attack but we’re investigating it as though it was,” police inspector Joergen Skov said on Saturday at a press conference in the Danish capital. “We now have a lot of police stationed around Copenhagen” as the search for the suspect continues, he said.

Swedish Security Services are “taking active steps in order to support the police in Sweden and Denmark,” according to spokesman Fredrik Milder.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Loefven, after speaking with his Danish counterpart, said he stands in “solidarity” with the Danish people and that he “strongly condemns all attempts to silent the free debate.”

The planned debate on free speech took place in a cafe bordering one of Copenhagen’s largest parks. Because of the security risks, body guards and police were already present and able to fire back at the gunman after he started shooting, Skov said. The three officers who were wounded in the crossfire didn’t sustain serious injuries, he said. Police didn’t provide any details on the deceased. Local media identified the person as a 40-year-old man who had come to the cafe to listen to the debate.

Denmark’s police intelligence unit said Saturday’s attack shows the threat of a terrorist act taking place in the country is “serious.”

Hours after the shooting at the cafe, one person was shot in the head and two policemen were shot in the arm and leg near Copenhagen's main synagogue, police said in a statement early Sunday.

It was not confirmed if the event was related to the shooting at the cafe.

© Copyright 2024 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Shots were fired Saturday at a cafe in Copenhagen as it hosted a freedom of speech event organized by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has faced numerous threats for caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad. Danish police say one man was killed.
EU, Denmark, Shots
Saturday, 14 February 2015 11:30 AM
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