Saturday, February 14, 2015


Early on Sunday, shots were fired near a synagogue in Copenhagen, wire services reported, and two police officers were among the wounded. A gunman fled, they reported. It was too early to say if the two attacks were connected, the police said.

Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said Saturday evening that the shooting at the Krudttoenden cafe had been a terrorist attack and that the nation was on high alert. "We feel certain now that it was a politically motivated attack, and thereby it was a terrorist attack," Ms. Thorning-Schmidt said.

The artist, Lars Vilks, 68, was unharmed, and the police said Saturday evening that there had been only one gunman, after initially reporting that there were two. The gunman, wearing a maroon balaclava over his head, escaped in a dark Volkswagen Polo, which was later found empty. The French ambassador to Denmark, who had been at the event, wrote on Twitter that he was unharmed.

PhotoMr. Vilks has regular protection from the Swedish police after death threats and at least one attempt on his life. On Saturday, the Danish police were also guarding the cafe, and the gunman, who fired at least 30 rounds into the windows and doors, could not force his way in. The gunfire at the event, "Art, Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression," followed the January attack in Paris on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical newspaper that had reprinted Danish cartoons of Muhammad.

Like Mr. Vilks, the editor of Charlie Hebdo — Stéphane Charbonnier, who was killed — had been on a list of assassination targets issued by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and other radical Muslim groups. Others, like the novelist Salman Rushdie, are still considered targets. The list also includes three staff members of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which printed cartoons of Muhammad in 2005: Kurt Westergaard, Carsten Juste and Flemming Rose.

Helle Merete Brix, one of the organizers of the event, said she believed Mr. Vilks had been the intended target. Amid the shooting, she said, she moved with Mr. Vilks into a cold storage room, as some French survivors did during the siege of a kosher market in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo attack. "I was in a cold room and kept hold of Lars Vilks's hand," she told Denmark's TV2. "He was very cool. We stood and told each other bad jokes."

Mr. Vilks also said that he believed he was the target. "What other motive could there be?" he told The Associated Press.

Ms. Brix said Mr. Vilks's bodyguards had done "a tremendous job" and added, "It is a dramatic and unpleasant reminder of what we are up against in these times."

Niels Ivar Larsen, one of the speakers at the event, said: "I heard someone firing with an automatic weapon and someone shouting. Police returned the fire, and I hid behind the bar. I felt surreal, like in a movie."

The French ambassador, François Zimeray, was not hurt. "They fired on us from the outside," he told Agence France-Presse. "It was the same intention as Charlie Hebdo, except they didn't manage to get in."

The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, called the shooting a terrorist attack, and President François Hollande said he would send the interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, to consult with the Danes. The Danish police said they were investigating it as a possible act of terrorism.

The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, called the attack "another brutal terrorist attack targeted at our fundamental values and freedoms, including the freedom of expression."

Mr. Vilks, who portrayed Muhammad as a dog on a traffic circle in a 2007 cartoon in a Swedish newspaper, said that he was under constant threat and that the Swedish police had increased their protection of him after the Charlie Hebdo killings. He told The Wall Street Journal last month that he had to coordinate his outings with the police because he "can't go anywhere without a police escort."

He said artists and satirists should not tread more carefully in their criticism of Islam than they would in criticizing any other religion. "Almost the entire Muslim world is subject to a theological rule that has a strange outcome when it comes to human rights," he said. "You can't ignore that. Then you're talking tactics, how should one go about to change that. Some say you should be very careful, but that's just postponing the problem. Sooner or later, you have to explain what you're criticizing."

Mr. Vilks is also known as a conceptual sculptor and something of a provocateur, building sculptures in protected nature reserves in Sweden. He originally drew his Muhammad cartoons for a local art exhibition, which withdrew them, fearing protests.

Other Swedish galleries also declined to show the drawings, but in August 2007, a regional newspaper, Nerikes Allehanda, published one of them to illustrate an editorial on self-censorship and freedom of religion. Protests and death threats ensued.

In 2010, the police discovered plots against Mr. Vilks's life, and he was assaulted while giving a lecture on free speech at Uppsala University in Sweden. Last year, a Pennsylvania woman was sentenced to a 10-year prison term for a plot to kill him, and in 2010, two brothers were jailed after trying to burn down his house.

New York Times

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