Danish police kill suspected gunman in Copenhagen shootings

Martin Sylvest, AFP I A police officer stands his post on the streets of central Copenhagen on February 15
3 min

Danish police said they shot and killed a man in Copenhagen on Sunday they believe was responsible for two shootings that claimed the lives of two people and left five wounded.


One man died in the first attack on a panel discussion on freedom of speech at a cultural centre hosting Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has been threatened with death for depicting the Prophet Mohammad in cartoons. Another died in a shooting at a synagogue close by.

Police said video surveillance indicated the man they shot was behind both attacks.

“We assume that it’s the same culprit behind both incidents, and we also assume that the culprit that was shot by the police task force on Norreport station is the person behind both of these assassinations,” Chief police inspector Torben Molgaard Jensen told reporters.

The suspect was killed in Norrebro, an area in Copenhagen not far from where the two attacks happened, following a massive manhunt. Helicopters roared overhead and armoured vehicles could be seen on the city’s usually peaceful streets.

The violence comes amid heightened tensions in Europe after last month’s attacks in Paris, which claimed the lives of 17 people, including twelve killed in an assault on the offices of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

‘An act of terror’

The first shooting in the Danish capital happened shortly before 4pm on Saturday at the Krudttoenden cultural centre during a panel discussion on freedom of expression that had been organised in the wake of Charlie Hebdo attacks.

French ambassador François Zimeray, who was at the event, had barely finished giving an introduction when up to 40 shots rang out. A 55-year-old man was killed and three police officers wounded.

Police said they considered Vilks, the main speaker, to have been the target.

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt later visited the site of the shooting, which she called a “political attack and therefore an act of terror.”

Hours afterwards, shots were fired at a synagogue in another part of the city, about a half hour’s walk away from the cultural centre. A man was hit in the head, and was later confirmed to have died. Two police officers were wounded.

Synagogue attack 'nightmare repeat of Paris'

French President François Hollande called the Copenhagen shooting “deplorable” and said Thorning-Schmidt would have the “full solidarity of France in this trial.” French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve was expected to travel to Copenhagen on Sunday.

Leaders in Europe and the US condemned the violence and expressed support for Denmark. Sweden’s security service said it was sharing information with its Danish counterpart, while US National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said US officials were ready to help with the investigation and have been in touch with their Danish counterparts.

Vilks stirred controversy in 2007 with his drawings depicting Mohammad as a dog, triggering numerous death threats. He has lived under the protection of Swedish police since 2010. Two years ago, an American woman was sentenced to 10 years in prison in the United States for plotting to kill him.

Many Muslims consider any representation of the Prophet Mohammad blasphemous.


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