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03 December 2023

Danish police arrest man trying to kill cartoonist

Danish police said on Saturday they shot and arrested an axe-wielding Somali man who tried to kill a cartoonist whose depictions of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) offended Muslims around the globe.

The 28-year-old, who lives in Denmark but was not identified, broke into the home of cartoonist Kurt Westergaard in the western city of Aarhus late on Friday. Police guards shot and wounded the intruder before arresting him.

The Somali national was close to the Somali Shebab movement and leaders of Al-Qaeda in East Africa, Denmark's internal security service PET said in a statement.

Westergaard, who has received several death threats since a Danish newspaper five years ago published his drawing featuring the Prophet (PBUH), was at his home with a five-year-old grand-daughter when the intruder tried to get in.

"I locked myself in our safe room and alerted the police. He tried to smash the entrance door with an axe, but he didn't manage," Westergaard, 74, told Danish news agency Ritzau.

"He used insults, I don't remember which, but it was bad language. He spoke poor Danish and he wound up saying he'd be back," said the cartoonist.

Bent Preben Nielsen, chief police inspector for East Jutland, said police fired at the aggressor who was threatening them with an axe and a knife, hitting him in the hip and the right hand.

The Somali, who was taken to hospital but whose injuries were not life-threatening, would be charged with "attempted murder of Kurt Westergaard and a policeman," East Jutland police chief Mikael Larsen said in a communique.

PET said in its statement: "The person arrested... has close links with the Somali terrorist organisation Al-Shebab as well as with the heads of Al-Qaeda in East Africa.

"He is also suspected of being implicated in terrorist activities when he was in east Africa. The individual arrested has also been a member of a terrorist network implanted in Denmark that has been under surveillance by PET for a long time."

Westergaard is one of 12 cartoonists whose drawings of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) were first published in Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September, 2005.

The 12 cartoons were considered offensive by many Muslims and their publication sparked violent protests worldwide in January and February 2006.

Two Tunisians were arrested in Denmark in 2008 on suspicion of planning to murder Westergaard, and later released without trial after they appealed a government order for their expulsion on national security grounds.

Demonstrators burned Danish flags in protests that culminated in February 2006 with the torching of Danish diplomatic offices in Damascus and Beirut and dozens of deaths in Nigeria, Libya and Pakistan.

Internet hackers last April attacked a website run by Denmark's Free Press Society selling prints of Westergaard's controversial cartoon, the group's director Lars Hedegaard said.

Denmark's 200,000 Muslims make up 3.5 per cent of the population and are the country's second largest religious community after the state-run Lutheran Church.


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