Sunday 22 October 2017

Man dies as gunmen target Mohammed cartoonist at debate

Mark Townsend

Danish police were last night hunting two gunmen after a 40-year-old man was killed and three officers injured when shots were fired at a Copenhagen cafe hosting a freedom-of- speech debate. The event had been organised by the controversial Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who has faced repeated threats for caricaturing the Prophet Mohammed.

Witnesses described scores of bullets ripping through the window of the Krudttonden cafe in Osterbro, near the centre of the city, shortly after 3.30pm, with the suspects fleeing by car after what was said to be a deliberate attempt to assassinate Vilks. The shooting comes weeks after the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in which 12 people were killed following the satirical magazine's depictions of the Prophet Mohammed.

The French ambassador to Denmark, Francois Zimeray, was at the scene of the latest shooting.

"They fired on us from the outside. It was the same intention as Charlie Hebdo, except they didn't manage to get in," he told AFP. "Bullets went through the doors and everyone threw themselves to the floor. Intuitively I would say there were at least 50 gunshots, and the police here are saying 200."

Among those reported to be inside was Inna Shevchenko, an activist with the feminist group Femen.Witnesses said they were in no doubt that the masked gunmen targeted Vilks, who has caused uproar by drawing the Prophet Mohammed as a dog. Vilks was not wounded.

Helle Merete Brix, one of the organisers of the event, told TV2 News that she and Vilks hid in the cold store of the cafe during the attack. She said: "I was in a cold room and kept hold of Lars Vilks's hand. He was very cool. . . His bodyguards did a tremendous job. It is a dramatic and unpleasant reminder of what we are up against in these times."

Later she said that she had seen "a masked man running past". Brix added: "I clearly consider this as an attack on Lars Vilks," saying she was eventually ushered away with Vilks by one of his Danish police guards.

Last night reports suggested police were searching for a VW Polo. Unconfirmed reports suggested that the getaway car was later found abandoned, a short drive from the cultural centre. Copenhagen police last night confirmed to the Berlingske newspaper that the suspects wore black and spoke Danish.

Within hours of the shooting, the French foreign minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, said he would be travelling to Denmark, condemning what he said was a terrorist attack.

Vilks (68) has faced several attacks and death threats since he depicted the Prophet Mohammed as a dog in 2007.

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