A lone gunman fired as many as 200 shots into a cafe in Copenhagen this afternoon in an apparent attempt to assassinate Lars Vilks, a Swedish artist who has received numerous death threats since drawing a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad in 2007. Vilks wasn’t harmed in the attack, but one person was killed and three police officers were injured.
The Danish security service called the shooting “a terror attack,” and the suspect is still at large. UPDATE: Danish police shot and killed a man they believe was responsible for both this attack and a later shooting at a synagogue that left one man dead.
The first attack occurred during a forum titled “Art, Blasphemy and the Freedom of Expression” held in the cafe Krudttønden in North Copenhagen on the anniversary of the fatwa on Salman Rushdie. Vilks was one of the organizers of the discussion, and the French ambassador to Sweden, François Zimeray, was also present; he escaped without injury.
“Bullets went through the doors, and everyone threw themselves on the floor,” Zimeray told Agence France-Presse. He compared the incident to the January attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine, except in this case the gunman didn’t get in the door. “Intuitively I would say there were at least 50 gunshots, and the police here are saying 200,” he said.
Vilks is a fine artist, not a political cartoonist, and his work is often deliberately provocative. He once drew Jesus as a pedophile, and he has had disputes with Swedish authorities over several sculptures sited in a nature preserve. In 2007 he drew a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog. The drawing was supposed to be part of an exhibit, but the organizers removed it after receiving death threats.
Since then, Vilks himself has been targeted by Islamic extremists, and he was named to a “most wanted” list issued by al-Qaida two years ago. Last year an American woman, Colleen LaRose (aka “Jihad Jane”), was sentenced to 10 years in prison for her part in a conspiracy to murder Vilks; her co-conspirator, Mohammad Hassan Khalid, who was a teenager at the time of the plot, received a five-year sentence.
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