Who is Swedish Cartoonist Lars Vilks, Targeted by Jihadists in Copenhagen Shooting?

The controversial caricaturist has already survived several assassination attempts.

Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks has escaped several assasination attemps

On February 14, 2015 unidentified assailants fired into a Copenhagen café, where a debate on freedom of speech featuring Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks was being held. One man was killed in the attack and three police officers were wounded before the gunman fled the scene.

Vilks and security experts believe that he was the main target of the Copenhagen shooting. The 68-year-old cartoonist is the author of a controversial caricature of Prophet Muhammad published in 2007 that sparked worldwide protests. The drawing was deemed offensive to many followers of Islam for its depiction of Muhammad as a dog. Vilks has been living under 24-hour police protection since 2010.

The pen-and-ink drawing of the Prophet was originally submitted to a regional art exhibition, yet several galleries refused to show it at the time. The controversy gained international attention after a liberal Swedish newspaper published the drawing to illustrate an editorial on the topic of censorship and free speech.

The Swedish cartoonist survived several assassination attempts. In January 2014, an American woman nicknamed “Jihad Jane” was sentenced to 10 years in prison for an attempt to murder Vilks. Prior to that, in May 2010 two brothers were jailed following a Molotov cocktails attack on Vilks’ house. In the same year, seven men were arrested in Ireland over an alleged plot to assassinate the artist, who had a $100,000 bounty on his head from an Al-Qaeda-linked group, the AFP reports.

The Notorious Cartoon

Vilks’ notorious cartoon is featured on the website of his Danish support committee, which had also announced he would be speaking at the debate on the relation between art, blasphemy, and freedom in Copenhagen.

Vilks told the press, “I’m not a fanatical racist, I do not have a political position. I am an artist who seeks the limits.” He added, “I think this is very important, if one wants to talk about freedom of expression and Islam and Muslims, to have a real position to have something sufficiently provocative and transgressive enough to start a debate.”

His committee awarded its 2014 freedom prize to Charlie Hebdo last October. The Copenhagen event was organized in reaction to last month’s attack in Paris on the offices of the French satirical magazine (see 12 Killed at Magazine Previously Attacked for Satirical Cartoons and Why the Killing of Charlie Hebdo Cartoonists Will Make Art Stronger) and was also attended by the French ambassador to Denmark.

The attack was followed by a shooting in a synagogue near central Copenhagen. One man was killed and two policemen wounded before the suspect fled on foot. Police said it was not immediately clear whether the incident was linked to the earlier shooting.

Danish police has reported that they killed the man suspected of opening fire at the event featuring Vilks.

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