Tuesday 26 September 2017

Cophenhagen shootings: Danish police arrest two men suspected of helping gunman

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Danish police have arrested two men suspected of helping the gunman who carried out two shootings in Copenhagen over the weekend.

Officers in the capital said the arrests were made yesterday and that the two men will face a custody hearing today.

The suspect was killed in a gun battle with a Swat team early yesterday. He had opened fire on Saturday at a cultural centre hosting a seminar on free speech with an artist who had caricatured the Prophet Mohammed and then later at security forces outside a synagogue, police said.

The suspected gunman, named in news reports as Omar el-Hussein, was a 22-year-old with a history of violence and may have been inspired by the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, Danish authorities have said.

Read more here: Copenhagen shootings: 'We saw in his eyes that something terrible had happened' 

Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt vowed to protect freedom of speech and Denmark's Jewish community.

Flowers lie in front of the Copenhagen synagogue where a security guard was killed (AP)
Flowers lie in front of the Copenhagen synagogue where a security guard was killed (AP)
The Danish flag sits among flowers and messages left at a memorial in front of the synagogue in Krystalgade for the victims of the deadly shooting attacks in Copenhagen. Photo: REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2012 file photo, Swedish artist Lars Vilks poses for a photograph in Nyhamnslage, Sweden. Shots were fired Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 at a cafe in Copenhagen that was hosting a freedom of speech event organized by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has faced numerous threats for caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad. (AP Photo/Bjorn Lindgren, File) SWEDEN OUT
Police personnel and vehicles are seen along a street in central Copenhagen, early February 15, 2015 following shootings at a synagogue in Krystalgade. One person was shot in the head and two police were wounded in an attack on the synagogue in central Copenhagen, Danish police said, adding that it was too early to say whether the incident was connected to an earlier one at an arts cafe. The news followed a shooting attack earlier Saturday on a cafe which hosted a debate on freedom of speech and was attended by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has been threatened with death for his cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad. One man died in that attack, and police said a suspect was still at large. REUTERS/Martin Sylvest/Scanpix Denmark (DENMARK - Tags: CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. DENMARK OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN DENMARK. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO COMMERCIAL SALES
An armed security officer runs down a street near 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. Danish media say several shots have been fired at a cafe in Copenhagen where a meeting about freedom of speech was being held, organized by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has faced numerous threats for caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad in 2007. (AP Photo/Polfoto, Kenneth Meyer) DENMARK OUT
Policemen are seen along a street in central Copenhagen, early February 15, 2015 following shootings at a synagogue in Krystalgade. One person was shot in the head and two police were wounded in an attack on the synagogue in central Copenhagen, Danish police said, adding that it was too early to say whether the incident was connected to an earlier one at an arts cafe. The news followed a shooting attack earlier Saturday on a cafe which hosted a debate on freedom of speech and was attended by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has been threatened with death for his cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad. One man died in that attack, and police said a suspect was still at large. REUTERS/Martin Sylvest/Scanpix Denmark (DENMARK - Tags: CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. DENMARK OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN DENMARK. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO COMMERCIAL USE
Forensic investigators are seen at the site of a shooting in Copenhagen February 14, 2015. 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 Mohammad. Danish police confirmed one civilian had been killed in the shooting and said the two suspects had fled in a car after the attack on the gathering, which had been billed as a debate on art and blasphemy. REUTERS/Liselotte Sabroe/Scanpix Denmark (DENMARK - Tags: CRIME LAW TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) ATTENTION EDITORS - NO COMMERCIAL SALES. DENMARK OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN DENMARK. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
Photo issued by Copenhagen Police believed to show the suspect in a shooting at a freedom of speech event in Copenhagen
The scene near the synagogue shooting in Copenhagen in which a man was killed and two police wounded (TV2 via APTN/AP)
Investigative personnel work at the scene of a cafe shooting in Oesterbro
The body of a gunman, believed to be Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, lies on the pavement as Copenhagen police forensic officers examine the scene after a shooting attack at a free speech event and then at a synagogue. Photo: AP Photo / TV2 Norway
An investigator at the bullet-riddled Krudttonder café in Copenhagen. Photo: REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

A Danish film-maker was killed in the first attack. Nine hours later, a security guard protecting a bat mitzvah near the synagogue was gunned down. Five police officers were wounded in the shootings.

Jens Madsen, head of the Danish intelligence agency PET, said investigators believed the gunman "could have been inspired by the events in Paris". Last month Islamic militants carried out a massacre at the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo followed by an attack on Jews at a kosher grocery, killing 17 people.

"He could also have been inspired by material sent out by (the Islamic State - IS - group) and others," Mr Madsen said.

Read more here: Copenhagen suspect 'was on terror radar and recently let out of prison'

Copenhagen police made no mention of Islamic extremism and said the Danish-born suspect had a history of violence and weapons offences and connections to a criminal gang. They did not release his name.

"Denmark has been hit by terror," Ms Thorning-Schmidt said. "We do not know the motive for the alleged perpetrator's actions, but we know that there are forces that want to hurt Denmark. They want to rebuke our freedom of speech."

Copenhagen's chief rabbi, Jair Melchior, said the security guard was Dan Uzan, 27. Two police officers who were near the synagogue were slightly wounded.

In the earlier shooting, 55-year-old film-maker Finn Noergaard was killed while attending a panel discussion called Art, Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression.

Read more here: Copenhagen shootings: Police say suspect shot dead by officers was a 22-year-old with a history in criminal gangs

One of the main speakers was Lars Vilks, a 68-year-old Swedish artist who has faced numerous death threats for depicting the Mohammed as a dog in 2007. Mr Vilks, who was whisked away unharmed by bodyguards, said he believed he was the intended target.

Agnieszka Kolek, another panellist, said she heard shouts of "God is great" in Arabic.

"Lars was being evacuated. Everyone was trying to protect themselves and others," she said. "We heard the gunshots approaching so I thought that the gunman must be in the building. And then I thought obviously I must protect myself and I tried to find a place to hide."

After the shooting, she said she and other participants continued the discussion as an act of defiance.

The depiction of Mohammed is deemed insulting to followers of Islam. While many Muslims have expressed disgust at the deadly assault on the Charlie Hebdo employees, they were alsodeeply offended by its caricatures.

Read more here: 'I was the target of Copenhagen gunman' - Cartoonist Lars Vilks believes he was intended victim of shooter who killed two

Denmark was the focus of anger from Islamists after the 2005 publication of 12 caricatures of the prophet in the Jyllands-Posten newspaper. The cartoons triggered riots in many Muslim countries and militant Islamists called for vengeance.

World leaders, including Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, condemned the Copenhagen attacks.

French President Francois Hollande visited the Danish embassy in Paris and hundreds gathered outside to show solidarity with victims. Many held candles or banners.

Also at the event was Patrick Pelloux, a medic and columnist for Charlie Hebdo. "We are all Danish tonight," he said.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki offered Washington's help to Danish authorities and said Americans "stand united with the people of Denmark and all others who defend the universal right of freedom of speech and stand against anti-Semitism and bigotry in all its forms".

The defence lawyer for one of the two suspects, Michael Juul Eriksen, told public broadcaster DR that the two were accused of giving the gunman shelter and getting rid of a weapon.

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