A Somali man was charged yesterday with attempting to kill a Danish cartoonist whose depiction of the Prophet Mohammed wearing a bomb-shaped turban sparked riots across the Muslim world in 2005.
The police said the 28-year-old man, who allegedly has links to Al Qaeda, was shot after he broke into the home of Kurt Westergaard on Friday night, wielding an axe and a knife.
Mr Westergaard, 74, whose five-year-old granddaughter was in the house at the time, locked himself in a specially designed safe room and used an emergency alarm.
Police who arrived at his bungalow in the Danish city of Aarhus said the suspect was shot in the knee and left arm after threatening an officer trying to arrest him.
The man was treated in hospital and was yesterday carried into court on a stretcher. He was charged with attempted murder and remanded in custody. He denied the charge, but reportedly did admit being at the scene.
The Danish security service PET said the intruder was linked to Somali terror organisation al Shabaab as well as Al Qaeda leaders in East Africa.
Jakob Scharf, head of Denmark’s intelligence agency, said the man, who had a residency permit for Denmark, is suspected of involvement in terror-related activities in east Africa and had been under surveillance, although not in connection with Westergaard.
Westergaard was one of 12 cartoonists commissioned by the Danish Jyllands-Posten newspaper to produce caricatures of the Muslim prophet.
Islamic law generally opposes any depiction of the prophet, even favourable, for fear it could lead to idolatry.
Muslims were particularly incensed by Westergaard’s cartoon, which portrayed Mohammed with a bomb in his turban and was seen as extending the caricature of Muslims as terrorists. The images sparked protests across the globe.
It was unclear whether the suspect actually managed to get inside the home of the cartoonist in Denmark’s second largest city, 125 miles northwest of Copenhagen.
Westergaard he told his employer, the Jyllands-Posten daily, that the assailant shouted ‘revenge’ and ‘blood’ as he tried to enter the room where he was hiding.
‘My grandchild did fine. It was scary. It was close. Really close. But we did it,’ he said.
An umbrella organization for moderate Muslims in Denmark condemned the attack.
“The Danish Muslim Union strongly distances itself from the attack and any kind of extremism that leads to such acts,” the group said in a statement.
Westergaard remains a potential target for extremists nearly five years after his controversial cartoon was published.
He has received death threats and is the subject of an alleged assassination plot.
The case ‘again confirms the terror threat that is directed at Denmark and against the cartoonist Kurt Westergaard in particular’, Scharf said.
In October, terror charges were brought against two Chicago men whose initial plan called for attacks on Jyllands-Posten’s offices.
The plan was later changed to just killing the paper’s former cultural editor and Westergaard.
In 2008, Danish police arrested two Tunisian men suspected of plotting to murder Westergaard. Neither suspect was prosecuted.
One of them was deported and the other was released Monday after an immigration board rejected PET’s efforts to expel him from Denmark.
Throughout the crisis, then-Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen distanced himself from the cartoons but resisted calls to apologize for them, citing freedom of speech and saying his government could not be held responsible for the actions of Denmark’s press.