Friday 24 March 2017

Gardai make seven arrests in 'cartoonist plot '

Seven Muslims were arrested in Waterford and Cork today over an alleged plot to assassinate a Swedish cartoonist who depicted the Prophet Mohammed with the body of a dog.

Al Qaida put a $100,000 bounty on the head of cartoonist Lars Vilks after a newspaper published his cartoon.

The four men and three women were detained after an investigation involving European security agencies and the United States’ CIA and FBI.

It is understood that some of those arrested hold Irish citizenship and a number are originally from the Middle East.

The suspects were detained by gardai for conspiracy to murder Mr Vilks in another jurisdiction as part of an intelligence-led probe.

The men and women arrested range in age from mid-20s to late 40s and are detained under Section 50 of Criminal Justice Act 2007 at Waterford, Tramore, Dungarvan and Thomastown Garda Stations.

They can be held for up to seven days.

Mr Vilks, who lives in an isolated area of Sweden, was put under police protection after threats were made against his life.

When al Qaida put the bounty on the cartoonist's head in 2007 it offered a 50pc bonus if Mr Vilks was "slaughtered like a lamb" by having his throat cut, while another $50,000 was put on the life of Ulf Johansson, editor-in-chief of Nerikes Allehanda, the local newspaper which printed the cartoon.

However those arrested are not believed to be members of the terrorist group.

It understood some have converted to the Muslim faith.

The arrests were made at around 10am as officers conducted a number of raids.

Gardai said the operation was supported by members from National Support Services and the anti-terrorist Special Detective Unit.

A Garda spokesman added: "Throughout the investigation An Garda Siochana has been working closely with law enforcement agencies in the United States and in a number of European countries."

Mr Vilks's controversial hand-drawn sketches outraged Muslims in some countries after they appeared in the publication Nerikes Allehanda in August 2007.

At least two galleries had previously refused to exhibit the drawings, citing security fears.

Islamic tradition prohibits visual depictions of Muhammed, the founder of Islam.

Muslims in Orebro, a city in southern central Sweden where the Nerikes Allehanda newspaper is based, held two protests while the publicity surrounding the images sparked a fiery debate in the Swedish media on freedom of expression.

Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt was forced to enter the debate with ambassadors from 22 Islamic countries to try to calm tensions over the cartoon.

Meanwhile Muslim leaders in Sweden condemned the threats on Mr Vilks's and Mr Johansson's lives.

Press Association

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