One Killed, Three Wounded in Shooting at Denmark Free Speech Talk

Police say target was Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who received death threats for depicting Prophet Mohammed as a dog in 2007, and was one of the speakers at the event.

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Emergency services gather outside a venue after shots were fired where an event titled  "Art, blasphemy and the freedom of expression" was being held in Copenhagen, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015.
Emergency services gather outside a venue after shots were fired where an event titled "Art, blasphemy and the freedom of expression" was being held in Copenhagen, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015.Credit: AP

A civilian was killed and three police were wounded on Saturday in a shooting at a meeting in Copenhagen attended by Lars Vilks, an artist who has received death threats since publishing images of the Prophet Mohammed.

Danish police said Wilks was the target of the attack. They added in a statement that they were looking for two perpetrators in dark clothing who drove away in a dark Volkswagen Polo that had been carjacked. The car was later found, and after further interviews with witnesses, police said they were looking only for one suspect, not two.

The cafe in northern Copenhagen, known for its jazz concerts, was hosting an event titled "Art, blasphemy and the freedom of expression" when the shots were fired.

Denmark's security service, PET, said the circumstances surrounding the shooting "indicate that we are talking about a terror attack."

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said "everything suggests the shooting ... was a political attack and thereby an act of terrorism." Police are on full alert and "every resource has been deployed," she added.

Police said the victim was a 40-year-old man inside the cafe attending the event. He has not yet been identified.

Danish news agency Ritzau said both Vilks and the French ambassador, who was also attending the event, were unharmed, but that three police had been wounded.

Witnesses said participants at the venue had to pass through metal detectors to enter the meeting hall. Armed police had also been posted at the venue.

Vilks had hid in a cold storage room with one of the organizers of the meeting, Helle Merete Brix, before being whisked away by police.

Brix told Danish broadcaster TV2 that they hid as soon as they heard the shots.

"We held each others hands and exchanged bad jokes," she said, adding that Vilks security detail did "a great job." "I saw a masked man running past," she told AP. "I clearly consider this as an attack on Lars Vilks."

Brix said she was ushered away with Vilks by one of the Danish police guards that he gets whenever he is in Denmark.

"I heard someone firing with an automatic weapons and someone shouting. Police returned the fire and I hid behind the bar. I felt surreal, like in a movie," Niels Ivar Larsen, one of the speakers at the event, told the TV2 channel.

Authorities in southern Sweden said they were helping Danish police. Sweden is joined to Denmark by bridge, and transit across is largely unchecked.

French President Francois Hollande said Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve would go to the Danish capital as soon as possible.

French ambassador to Denmark François Zimeray posted a message that he was "still alive" via his Twitter account, as the event unfolded around him.

Still alive in the room

Just over a month ago, 17 people were killed in France in three days of violence that began when two Islamist gunmen burst into the Paris offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, opening fire in revenge for its publication of satirical images of Mohammed.

Vilks living under constant protection

Vilks stirred controversy in 2007 with published drawings depicting Mohammed as a dog which sparked threats from Islamist militant groups.

He has received numerous death threats and has lived under the constant protection of the Swedish police since 2010. Two years ago, an American woman who called herself Jihad Jane was sentenced to 10 years in prison for plotting to kill him.

Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published cartoons by various artists in 2005 depicting Mohammad, provoking protests across the Muslim world in which at least 50 died and death threats against the cartoonists.

Islamic State says ready to carry out attacks in France

Meanwhile, Islamic State said it was prepared to carry out terror attacks in France in a newly published video, Al-Jazeera reported on Saturday.

Titled "A letter to France," the video is addressed to the people of France and Belgium, French President Francois Holland, and former president Nicholas Sarkozy. "France's real nightmare starts now," the video states, saying it will execute further attacks in Paris as a response to the crossing of "all the red lines" by France.

Islamic State fighters "are everywhere," the video states, warning that fighters stationed in Paris and Brussels are awaiting instructions to act, in response to ridicule directed against the Prophet Mohammed.

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