Feb 14, 2015 11:37 AM

Shootout at Copenhagen cafe free speech event

The Associated Press

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) Shots were fired Saturday at a cafe in Copenhagen that was hosting a freedom of speech event organized by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has faced numerous threats for caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad.

Some 30 bullet holes ripped through the window of the Krudttoenden cafe and at least two people were taken away on stretchers, including a uniformed police officer, the TV2 channel said Saturday.

"I heard someone firing with an automatic weapons and someone shouting. Police returned the fire and I hid behind the bar. I felt surreal, like in a movie," Niels Ivar Larsen, one of the speakers at the event, told the TV2 channel.

Helle Merete Brix, one of the event's organizers, told The Associated Press that Vilks was at the meeting but not injured.

"I saw a masked man running past," she said. "A couple of police officers were injured."

"I clearly consider this as an attack on Lars Vilks," she added, saying she was ushered away with Vilks by one of the Danish police guards that he gets whenever he is in Denmark.

The cafe in northern Copenhagen, known for its jazz concerts, was hosting an event titled "Art, blasphemy and the freedom of expression" when the shots were fired.

The Berlingske newspaper said one spectator was seriously wounded and three police officers were lightly wounded. It said police were looking for a Volkswagen Polo.

Fran ois Zimeray, the French ambassador to Denmark who was at the conference, tweeted that he was "still alive."

Vilks, a 68-year-old Swedish artist, has faced several attempted attacks and death threats after he depicted the Prophet Muhammad as a dog in 2007.

A Pennsylvania woman last year got a 10-year prison term for a plot to kill Vilks. In 2010, two brothers tried to burn down his house in southern Sweden and were imprisoned for attempted arson.

After Islamic militants attacked the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris last month, killing 12 people, Vilks told the AP that even fewer organizations were inviting him to give lectures over increased security concerns.

Vilks also said he thought Sweden's SAPO security service, which deploys bodyguards to protect him, would step up the security around him.

"This will create fear among people on a whole different level than we're used to," he said. "Charlie Hebdo was a small oasis. Not many dared do what they did."


Karl Ritter contributed from Stockholm.


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