Saturday 21 April 2018

Two suspects charged with helping Copenhagen gunman

Denmark's Chief Rabbi Jair Melchior comforts a women at a memorial site for the victims of the deadly attack in front of the synagogue in Krystalgade, Copenhagen
Denmark's Chief Rabbi Jair Melchior comforts a women at a memorial site for the victims of the deadly attack in front of the synagogue in Krystalgade, Copenhagen
Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt addresses the media after the atrocities

David Chazan

Two men were charged yesterday as accomplices of the suspected Islamist terrorist who shot dead two people in a double attack in Copenhagen at the weekend.

The men, described as "young", appeared in court in a closed hearing and have not been named.

They denied helping the 22-year-old suspect, Omar el-Hussein, obtain guns and hiding him for several hours after the first attack on a free speech debate at a cafe, where he killed a filmmaker.

"The two men are charged with helping through advice and deeds the perpetrator in relation to the shootings at Krudttonden and in Krystalgade," the police said in a statement, referring to the locations of the two attacks.

El-Hussein, of Palestinian descent but born and brought up in Denmark, died in a shootout with police early on Sunday as he returned home after the second attack on a girl's Bat Mitzvah celebrations at a synagogue.

He pretended to be a drunken member of the party to get past a police cordon but was stopped by a Jewish economist acting as a volunteer security guard, whom he shot dead before fleeing on foot.

Police traced his home address from CCTV footage that showed him abandoning his stolen getaway car after the cafe attack and getting in a taxi.

Police believe El-Hussein was radicalised in prison. He was released about two weeks ago after serving a two-year sentence for aggravated assault. He was convicted of stabbing a man at a railway station in 2013, injuring him in the leg and buttock. El-Hussein, who had a criminal record going back to his teens for gang-related offences, including possession of firearms, was "on the intelligence radar" as a potential threat, Denmark's spy chief Jens Madsen said.

Questions are now being asked about how he was able to escape police surveillance, acquire several guns, including an automatic weapon, and carry out the double attack, killing the filmmaker and the volunteer security guard at the Bat Mitzvah party.

Mr Madsen said he had not been placed under round-the-clock surveillance because there had been no indication that he had travelled to Iraq or Syria to fight or train with jihadist groups.

Investigators believe he modelled his attacks on the 'Charlie Hebdo' shootings in Paris last month that left 17 dead.

Police are investigating whether a jihadist network helped el-Hussein plan the attacks. It was unclear how he knew about the free speech debate at the cafe, at which one of the participants was a Swedish cartoonist who had caricatured the Prophet Mohammed, as the event had not been widely publicised. The French ambassador also attended the event.

There are also questions about how el-Hussein became aware of the party at the synagogue, where he arrived at one o'clock in the morning.

Danish media reported that el-Hussein had been linked with a mainly Muslim youth gang known as "The Brothas", but a spokesman for the group said he had never been a member.

"We know who he is," the spokesman said. "But he is not one of ours. He was a lone wolf who kept to himself. We didn't know that he was in such trouble. We condemn what happened."

As the investigation continued, police raided several homes on the mainly immigrant Molnerparken estate where el-Hussein lived.

Four men were arrested during another raid by armed police at an internet cafe, where equipment was confiscated.

According to the cafe owner, the four were arrested for disobeying police orders to lie on the floor. It is unclear if the two men charged yesterday were among them.

Denmark, a nation of only 5.6 million people, has an estimated 600,000 immigrants or citizens of foreign descent, many of whom are Muslims. Hundreds of Danes are believed to have joined Islamist groups in Syria and Iraq.

Copenhagen prides itself on being one of the world's safest cities. (© Daily Telegraph London)

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