Saturday 24 February 2018

Man killed in Danish cafe shooting

A man has died after at least one gunman opened fire on a cafe in the Danish capital of Copenhagen, which was hosting a freedom of speech debate.

Three policemen were also injured in the shooting at the debate organised by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has faced numerous threats for caricaturing the Prophet Mohammed.

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

Danish police said the gunman used an automatic weapon to shoot through the windows of the Krudttoenden cafe, which TV footage showed were riddled with bullet holes. The gunman then fled in a hijacked Volkswagen Polo that was found later a few miles away.

Police initially said there were two gunmen but later said they believed there was only one shooter, and described him as 25 to 30 years old with an athletic build, and carrying a black automatic weapon. They released a blurred photograph of the suspect wearing dark clothes and a scarf covering part of his face.

The shooting came a month after Islamic militants attacked another media outlet that had printed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris, killing 12 people.

A police spokesman said it was possible the gunman had planned the "same scenario" as in the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the shooting, which took place shortly before 4pm local time.

Helle Merete Brix, one of the organisers of the event, said Mr Vilks was present at the event but not injured.

She said: "I saw a masked man running past. I clearly consider this as an attack on Lars Vilks."

Danish police said 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.

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

Niels Ivar Larsen, one of the speakers at the event, said: "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."

Visiting the scene of the shooting, Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said "our highest priority is to get the perpetrator arrested".

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

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.

Francois Zimeray, the French ambassador to Denmark who was at the conference, tweeted that he was "still alive".

French president Francois Hollande called the Copenhagen shooting "deplorable" and said Ms Thorning-Schmidt would have the "full solidarity of France in this trial".

French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve is travelling to Copenhagen as soon as possible.

Mr Vilks, 68, has faced several attempted attacks and death threats after he depicted the Prophet Mohammed as a dog in 2007.

A US woman was jailed for 10 years in 2014 for a plot to kill Mr Vilks. In 2010, two brothers tried to burn down his house in southern Sweden and were imprisoned for attempted arson.

After Islamic militants attacked the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris last month, killing 12 people, Mr Vilks said that even fewer organisations were inviting him to give lectures amid increased security concerns.

Mr Vilks also said he thought Sweden's SAPO security service, which deploys bodyguards to protect him, would step up the security around him.

"This will create fear among people on a whole different level than we're used to," he said. "Charlie Hebdo was a small oasis. Not many dared do what they did."

The depiction of the prophet is deemed insulting to many followers of Islam. According to mainstream Islamic tradition, any physical depiction of the Prophet Mohammed - even a respectful one - is considered blasphemous.

Press Association

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