Confirmed: The shooter was Muslim.
Open season…on those who draw cartoons of Mohammed.
Gunmen stormed a Copenhagen building Saturday where controversial cartoonist Lars Vilks and his supporters had gathered, killing one man and wounding three police officers before driving away from the scene, police and witnesses said.
Helle Merete Brix — the founder of the Lars Vilks Committee, created two years ago in support of the Swedish cartoonist whose portrayals of the Prophet Mohammed angered many in the Muslim world — told CNN that security on site moved her and others to safe areas once they realized a shooting had taken place.
She and Vilks ended up in a storage room together, holding hands, until police told them it was OK to come out.
“We have never taken any chances,” Brix said, pointing to the heavy security from police, Danish intelligence services and Vilks’ own security guards at this and other committee events. “What we have so much been frightened would happen happened tonight.”
The attackers fled the scene in a dark Volkswagen Polo, according to Copenhagen police.
A target since cartoon of Mohammed with dog’s body
About 30 people — including Vilks and French diplomat Francois Zimeray, who tweeted later that he is “still alive in the room” — attended Saturday’s event at a theater building in what Brix described as a “very peaceful area” of the Danish capital.
But it didn’t last long, with noise erupting just a few minutes in.
The attackers made it into the lobby but apparently got no further, according to Brix, a journalist and literary critic. She recalled how one man there “acted very quickly and courageously” by pushing a woman down to the ground then putting herself on top of her so she wouldn’t get shot.
Brix said “there’s no doubt about it” that the event — which included a panel on free speech — was targeted because of Vilks, who has “not been able to live a normal life” for years, according to the committee.
“This is … why we set up the committee: to support Mr. Vilks and support his right to freedom of speech,” Brix said.
The shooting occurred just over a month after the massacre at the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which had come under fire for its publishing cartoons of Mohammed. Depictions of Mohammed are considered offensive by many Muslims.
Vilks was a target before Charlie Hebdo for his 2007 cartoon of Mohammed with the body of a dog — an animal that conservative Muslims consider unclean.
In a CNN interview later that year from his home in rural Sweden, Vilks said the drawing was a calculated move meant to elicit a rection.
“It should be possible to insult all religions in a democratic way,” he said then. “If you insult one (religion), then you should insult the other ones.”
“We feel certain now that it was a politically motivated attack, and thereby it was a terrorist attack,” she told reporters close to the site of the shooting. An event organizer said that Vilks was present at the conference, but was not injured. Vilks told The Associated Press by phone that he believes he was the intended target of the attack, asking, “what other motive could there be?”
The suspect fled after gunfire erupted around 4 p.m. local time (10 a.m. ET) at Krudttoenden cafe in the Osterbro district, Copenhagen police said in a statement. A surveillance photo shows the suspect wearing dark clothes and a scarf. Police said initial interviews indicate only one person fired the shots, and had left the scene in a dark-colored Volkswagen Polo that had been carjacked. The car was later found.
The TV2 channel said there were some 30 bullet holes in the window of the cafe and at least two people were taken away on stretchers. Two of the three police officers injured are members of Denmark’s national security intelligence agency, PET. Police told NBC News that one person was killed but it was unclear whether the victim, described as a civilian, died at the scene.
Inna Shevchenko, the leader of Ukrainian feminist group FEMEN, tweeted that she was participating in a panel discussion at the cafe when the shooting occurred. “I didn’t see anything. I heard about 20 shots while speaking and then people started to run,” she wrote.
Update: Now confirmed 2 have been killed, 5 injured. A second attack at a synagogue killed one. Manhunt continues.
The second incident took place about 10 hours after a deadly terror attack. In the latest incident, shots were fired near a synagogue when a person approached two police officers and began shooting. Another person was shot and later died, and the police officers were wounded — one in an arm, the other in a leg, police said. Their injuries weren’t life-threatening.
This may be the first time much of the Western world will have heard of Lars Vilks, but it’s not the first attempt by Muslims to end Vilks’ life .
Read all Creeping Sharia posts on Lars Vilks here.
See our Lars Vilks collection here.