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Somali Charged With Attempted Murder Of Danish Cartoonist

  • Stefan Bos

A Somali man with alleged links to terrorist groups al-Shabab and al-Qaida has been charged with an attempt to kill a Danish cartoonist whose depiction of the Prophet Muhammed sparked outrage in the Muslim world.

Police and medical personnel carried an injured Somali man strapped to a stretcher into a Danish court Saturday, just hours after his alleged attempt to kill Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard. The suspect's face was covered by a blanket and under Danish privacy laws his name has not been revealed.

The 28-year-old man was later charged with two counts of attempted murder for Friday's attack on Westergaard, whose cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb-shaped turban in 2005 ignited riots and outrage among Muslims worldwide. The suspect denied the charges.

Denmark's intelligence service claimed that the alleged attacker had close ties to the Somali terrorist groups al-Shabab and al-Qaida in eastern Africa.

The man apparently broke into Westergaard's home near the town of Aarhus about 200 kilometers northwest of the capital Copenhagen.

Seventy-four-year-old Westergaard fled with his granddaughter to a special safe room in his house where he could call police.

He said in remarks aired by Danish television that he escaped unhurt after a tense stand-off. Cartoonist Westergaard explains the man tried to enter the area where he and his grandchild sought shelter. He says the suspect also shouted abusive language as he tried to break down the (entrance) door. Westergaard adds that he was able to contact police. In his words "It was scary. It was close, really close, but we did it."

The deputy chief superintendent of the Aarhus police, Fritz Keldsen, told reporters that his forces arrived late Friday within minutes after receiving Westergaard's distress call.

He confirmed that the man was shot after apparently threatening police with an axe and a knife. Keldsen says police came in large numbers after receiving an alarm message from Westergaard's home. He explains that when police confronted the suspect he moved away from the scene. Keldsen adds, "He then attacked the police patrol. He did that, so they were qualified to shoot him."

Police reportedly shot the man twice, but said the suspect's life was not in danger.

Officials said artist Westergaard has been moved to an undisclosed location for his own protection.

The Associated Press reports that a moderate Muslim organization in Denmark, the Danish Muslim Union, condemned the attack in statement Saturday.