COPENHAGEN, Denmark– After a frantic manhunt involving “all the country’s police forces,” Danish police say they’ve killed the man they believe is responsible for a pair of possible terrorist attacks that left two people dead.
“As a nation, we have experienced a series of hours we will never forget,” Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said Sunday.
“We have tasted the ugly taste of fear and powerlessness that terror would like to create. But we have also, as a society, answered back.”
The carnage began Saturday afternoon, when a gunman stormed a Copenhagen cafe where Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks was attending a free speech forum.
Vilks is known for his controversial depictions of the Prophet Mohammed and has been targeted for death by Islamic extremists because of his work.
The cartoonist wasn’t hurt, but the gunman did kill a 55-year-old man and wounded three officers before fleeing, police said. The man who died in the cafe shooting has not been named by authorities.
Hours later, someone approached two officers near a Copenhagen synagogue and started shooting, police said.
The officers were wounded. But 37-year-old Dan Uzan, who was providing security for a confirmation party behind the synagogue, died, the Jewish Society of Denmark said.
“The Jewish Society is in shock about the attack, but everyone’s thoughts are first and foremost with Dan’s family and friends, and with the wounded police officers and their families,” the Jewish Society said.
Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II offered her condolences and urged residents to “stand together and and guard the values upon which Denmark is built.”
How police found the suspect
Authorities have not yet named the suspect.
They say they have no evidence he worked with anyone else, but are “operating under a theory” that he may have been inspired by the January terror attack in France, according to Jens Madsen, chief of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service.
Seventeen people died in the Paris attack, which began with an assault on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The magazine had published images of the Prophet Mohammed.
In Saturday’s attacks, police identified the man from surveillance footage that shows him getting into a taxi after the first shooting, Copenhagen police investigator Jorgen Skov said.
“By interviewing the taxi driver, we got the address where he dropped off the person,” Skov said. “We have been keeping that address under observation.”
He said when officers tried to contact the suspect at the Copenhagen apartment early Sunday, the suspect opened fire. Police fired back, killing the gunman.
No officers were injured.
Free speech event turns fatal
The cafe where the shootings began was hosting a forum on free speech with Vilks and his supporters. The discussion was soon shattered by the sounds of dozens of gunshots.
“Everybody, of course, panicked in the room and tried to run,” professor and satire researcher Dennis Meyhoff Brink said. “We were just hiding … and hoping for the best.”
Brink said he heard about 30 shots around 3:30 p.m. Saturday. He said he also heard someone yelling in a foreign language.
The attacker made it just inside the building but apparently got no farther, said Helle Merete Brix, a journalist and founder of the Lars Vilks Committee. The group supports the cartoonist, whose portrayals of the Prophet Mohammed angered many in the Muslim world.
Bodyguards returned fire, Copenhagen police said, but the gunman managed to flee.
“We are investigating this as a terror attack,” Skov said.
Police also said they are treating the synagogue attack “as a possible terror act, but of course we can’t say for sure.”
Cartoon of Mohammed with dog’s body
Vilks, who has survived two previous attempts on his life, became a target after his 2007 cartoon depicting 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 calculated to elicit a reaction.
“It should be possible to insult all religions in a democratic way,” he said at the time. “If you insult one (religion), then you should insult the other ones.”
Like Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane “Charb” Charbonnier — who was killed in last month’s attack — Vilks was one of nine faces on a “Most Wanted” graphic published by al Qaeda’s Inspire magazine for “crimes against Islam.”
Others include a pair of Danish journalists who published 12 cartoons depicting Mohammed in the Jyllands-Posten newspaper; Florida pastor Terry Jones, who burned a Quran; and “Satanic Verses” author Salman Rushdie.
Because of that, Brix said, “there’s no doubt” the Copenhagen event was targeted because of Vilks, who has “not been able to live a normal life” for years, the Lars Vilks Committee said.
But the Prime Minister stressed that the challenges Denmark now faces were not spawned by a religion at large.
“This is not a battle between Islam and the West, and it is not a battle between Muslims and non-Muslims, but a battle between the values of freedom for the individual and a dark ideology.”
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