Shooting at Copenhagen Free Speech Meeting, One Killed

One attendee of a debate organized by a Swedish Muhammad cartoonist is killed in a shooting.

A shopping street in Copenhagen, Denmark, January 22, 2013
A shopping street in Copenhagen, Denmark, January 22, 2013 (News Oresund)

One person was killed and three police officers wounded in a shooting in Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital, on Saturday at a meeting attended by the Swedish artist Lars Vilks.

Vilks, who was unharmed, stirred controversy in 2007 when he published drawings that depicted the Muslim Prophet Muhammad as a dog. He has received numerous death threats and lived under constant protection since 2010.

Danish police said they thought the suspect might have fled by train. A car the shooter first used to flee the crime scene was found abandoned.

Police also said the injuries their three officers sustained were not critical.

The event the shooter targeted was billed as a debate on art, blasphemy and free speech. France’s ambassador to Denmark attended the meeting and likened the assault to last month’s attack by Islamists on the Paris office of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, a magazine known for lampooning Islam. Like Vilks, it had previously been threatened by religious extremists.

Most Muslims consider making an image of Muhammad to be blasphemous.

Twelve people died and eleven were injured in the Paris attack. The two suspects were killed when police stormed their hideout in northern France. Before their deaths, one of the gunmen phoned in to French television claiming to have received financing from an Al Qaeda preacher in Yemen.

Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt told reporters close to the site of the attack in Copenhagen, “We feel certain now that it was a politically motivated attack and thereby it was a terrorist attack.”

European Council president Donald Tusk said what happened in Copenhagen was “another brutal terrorist attack targeted at our fundamental values and freedoms, including the freedom of expression.”

The Charlie Hebdo attack sparked demonstrations for free speech across Europe, including a march in Paris that was attended by dozens of world leaders.

Muslims comprise around 3 percent of Denmark’s population. Integration problems have given rise to the nationalist Danish People’s Party which won 12 percent of the votes in the last election.

In 2005, the publication of a series of Muhammad cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten inspired riots around the Islamic world.

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