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Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks apparent target of Copenhagen attack

Bjorn Lindgren, TT News Agency, AFP

A Swedish artist long threatened with death for depicting Prophet Mohammed in cartoons said he believed he was the intended target of a deadly shooting on a Copenhagen cultural centre on Saturday.

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The artist, Lars Vilks, whose cartoons depicting Mohammad as a dog sparked worldwide protests in 2007, had been among the speakers of a panel discussion on free speech at the Krudttoenden cultural centre when a gunman sprayed bullets through its windows on Saturday afternoon.

Vilks, 68, was whisked away unharmed by his bodyguards but a 55-year-old man attending the event was killed, while three police officers were wounded, authorities said. A second civilian died in a subsequent attack on a synagogue close by.

Police told Reuters they considered Vilks, the main speaker, to have been the target while Vilks confirmed with the Associated Press that he believed he was the principle target.

“What other motive could there be? It's possible it was inspired by Charlie Hebdo,” Viks said, referring to the Jan. 7 attack by Islamic extremists on the French newspaper that had angered Muslims by lampooning the Prophet Mohammed.

Police said it was possible the gunman had planned the “same scenario” as the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

Vilks, who has faced several attempted attacks and death threats, has lived under the protection of Swedish police since 2010. Later that same year, two brothers tried to burn down his house in southern Sweden and were imprisoned for attempted arson while in 2014 a Pennsylvania woman was handed a 10-year prison term for a plot to kill him.

Denmark itself became a target after the publication 10 years ago of cartoons lampooning the Prophet Mohammad, images which led to sometimes fatal protests in the Muslim world.

According to mainstream Islamic tradition, any physical depiction of the Prophet Muhammad - even a respectful one - is considered blasphemous.

(France 24 with AP, Reuters)

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