Police in shootout with suspect in deadly attacks
- Copenhagen police kill a gunman during a shootout Sunday
- He’s suspected in Saturday’s deadly attacks at a free speech forum and a synagogue
“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 — known for his controversial depictions of the Prophet Mohammed — was attending a free speech forum.
The gunman killed a 55-year-old man at the cafe and wounded three officers before fleeing, police said. The victim has not been identified.
About 10 hours later, someone approached two officers near a Copenhagen synagogue and started shooting, police said.
Just behind the synagogue, a young girl was celebrating her confirmation with a party of about 80 people, the Jewish Society of Denmark said.
The two officers were wounded and survived. But 37-year-old Dan Uzan, who was standing at the gate providing security for the party, was shot and killed, the Jewish Society 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.
How police found the suspect
Authorities pieced together surveillance images from across the capital and tracked the suspect’s movements, Copenhagen police investigator Jorgen Skov said.
Copenhagen police released this photo of a man in connection with Saturday’s terror attack.
The footage shows the man going from the scene of a shooting to where he apparently abandoned a vehicle, and to a taxi cab.
“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 make contact with the suspect at the Copenhagen apartment on Sunday, the suspect opened fire. Police fired back, killing the gunman.
No officers were injured.
While the identity of the shooter was not released, Islamist extremists have made documented threats against Vilks. They’ve even placed him on a “wanted” poster in an al Qaeda magazine.
Free speech event turns fatal
The forum attended by Vilks at the cafe was interrupted by the sounds of dozens of gunshots.
New audio: Shots interrupt forum 01:03
“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 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.
Lars Vilks says his controversial cartoon 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 the attack on that magazine’s Paris offices last month — Vilks was one of nine faces on a “Most Wanted” graphic published by al Qaeda’s Inspire magazine for “crimes against Islam.”
Controversial cartoonist on al Qaeda ‘Most Wanted’ list 03:03
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.
Why Islam forbids images of Mohammed
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.”