Denmark on high alert after attack on free-speech event

Swedish artist who faced threats for caricaturing Prophet Muhammad confirmed as target of deadly Copenhagen shooting.

At least one man has been killed and three police officers have been wounded after several shots were fired at a cafe in Denmark’s capital Copenhagen where a meeting on freedom of speech was being held.

Danish police said late on Saturday that just one attacker was involved in the attack in the city’s north.

They released a photo of the suspect in a dark jacket and a maroon hat carrying a black bag.

Police initially said there were two suspects.

The assailant, who remains on the run, reportedly used automatic weapons in carrying out the attack.

As of late Saturday, a getaway car had been recovered, police said.

Krudttoenden Cafe, which is known for its jazz concerts, was hosting an event titled Art, Blasphemy and the Freedom of Expression when the shots were fired.

Numerous threats

The event was organised by Lars Vilks, 68, a Swedish artist who has faced numerous threats for caricaturing Prophet Muhammad in 2007.

Police confirmed that he was the target of the attack.

Francois Zimeray, the French ambassador to Denmark, was in attendance when the event at the Krudttoenden Cafe came under attack.

He was not injured.

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Denmark’s prime minister, described the assault as “a terrorist attack”.

“Denmark has today been hit by a cynical act of violence,” he said.

“Everything indicates that the shooting in Osterbro was a political assassination, and thus an act of terrorism.”

Christina Marker, reporting for Al Jazeera from Copenhagen, said there is “a massive police presence” in the city and that even before the attack, there “were lots of security around”.

Earlier, Denmark’s TV2 channel reported that there were about 30 bullet holes in the window of Krudttoenden Cafe, adding that at least two people were taken away on stretchers, including a uniformed police officer.

Artist not injured

Helle Merete Brix, one of the organisers of the free-speech event, told the Associated Press news agency that Vilks was present but not injured.

When Vilks is in Denmark, he receives police protection.

A woman in the US state of Pennsylvania got a 10-year prison term last year for a plot to kill him.

In 2010, two brothers tried to burn down Vilks’ house in southern Sweden and were imprisoned for attempted arson.

Double standards on freedom of expression

Just over a month ago, 17 people were killed in France in three days of violence that began when two attackers burst into the Paris offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, opening fire in revenge for its publication of images of Prophet Muhammed.

Comparisons between the two events are already starting to be made, including by Zimeray, the French diplomat.

“They fired on us from the outside,” he said.

“It was the same intention as [the January 7 attack on] Charlie Hebdo except they didn’t manage to get in.”

Laurent Fabius, France’s foreign minister, condemned what he called a “terrorist attack targeting a public meeting”, saying in a statement that France “remains by the side of the Danish authorities and people in the fight against terrorism”.

However, in a statement to Al Jazeera, Tabish Khair, a novelist based in the Danish town of Aarhus, cautioned against immediately linking the attack with any religion.

“It should be condemned as a criminal act, and no religious belief should be employed to explain it on any side,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies