Irish police arrested seven people on Tuesday under suspicion of plotting to kill a Swedish cartoonist who drew a depiction of the Prophet Mohammad with a dog's body. A group linked to al Qaeda had offered a reward in 2007 for the murder.
REUTERS - Irish police arrested seven people on Tuesday in connection with an alleged plot to murder a Swedish cartoonist over a drawing depicting the Prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog.
The police said they had detained four men and three women in the southern counties of Waterford and Cork as part of an investigation into a "conspiracy to murder an individual in another jurisdiction".
They declined to give details of the suspects except to say their ages ranged from mid 20s to late 40s. National broadcaster RTE said the detainees were originally from Morocco and Yemen.
A security source confirmed local media reports that the alleged plot under investigation was to murder Lars Vilks, for whose killing an Iraqi group linked to al Qaeda offered a $100,000 reward in 2007.
"It is understood (the suspects) all have refugee status and are legally in the country," RTE added in a report on its website.
Vilks told Swedish news wire TT that he had received threatening phone calls from Somalia and was prepared to barricade himself inside a secure room if attackers ever tried to force their way into his home.
"I have prepared in different ways and I have an axe here if anyone would try to come in through the window," he told TT, adding that he had informed the Swedish security service of the threats against him.
A spokeswoman for the security service, responsible for dealing with terrorist threats, said Swedish authorities had been aware of the arrests before they were made public but could not offer any further details.
In January, a Somali man was indicted on charges of terrorism and attempted murder for breaking into the home of Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and threatening him with an axe.
A cartoon by Westergaard in 2005 which depicted the Prophet Muhammad with a turban shaped like a bomb sparked outrage across the Muslim world, with at least 50 people killed in riots in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
Most Muslims consider any depiction of the founder of Islam as offensive.
The Irish police said they had been working closely on the plot against Vilks with law enforcement agencies in the United States and a number of European countries.