Gunmen Attack Free Speech Seminar in Copenhagen

A free speech event was interrupted by gunfire in Copenhagen today. Authorities are calling it a likely terror attack.


An event in Copenhagen Saturday was meant to celebrate free speech. It turned deadly when gunmen riddled a cafe with bullets, killing one.

Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has faced death threats for his caricatures of the Prophet Mohamed, organized the event on “Art, Blasphemy, and the Freedom of Expression.” If the shooting is connected to his cartoons — and Danish authorities are calling it a likely terror attack — it would mark the second deadly incident this year connected to cartoonists’ representations of Mohamed. Last month, 12 people were killed when gunmen stormed the offices of the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris.

According to wire reports, some 30 bullet holes riddled the window of the Krudttoenden cafe. Vilks was at the event, but was not hurt.

“I saw a masked man running past,” Helle Merete Brix, one of the event’s organizers, told the Associated Press. “I clearly consider this as an attack on Lars Vilks.”

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Danish authorities said the victim was a 40-year old man attending the event. He has not been identified. Three others were injured.

Denmark, a member of the European Union, has stopped terror potential plots against publications in the past. In 2010, authorities there thwarted a planned attack against Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten, a newspaper that published cartoons of Mohamed.

European nations have been on high alert since the Charlie Hebdo attacks. In its aftermath, a series of raids across the continent have netted dozens of suspects as European nations step up surveillance of its own citizens.

Francois Zimeray, the French ambassador to Denmark, was at the event to talk about the Charlie Hebdo incident. He was uninjured. In a statement, French President Francois Hollande called the shooting “deplorable.”

Vilks has long been a target for his work. In 2010, two brothers tried to burn down his home. Last year, a Pennsylvania woman was sentenced to 10 years in prison for plotting to kill him.

Although the Quran does not explicitly ban depicting Mohamed it is a highly sensitive issue and generally frowned upon in modern Islamic tradition. Many Muslims consider it blasphemous.

Photo Credit: Staff/AFP

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