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Somali Man Tried for Muhammad Cartoon Attack

A man who allegedly assaulted Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard is carried into court on a stretcher in Aarhus, Denmark (file photo – 02 Jan 2010)
A man who allegedly assaulted Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard is carried into court on a stretcher in Aarhus, Denmark (file photo – 02 Jan 2010)

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A Somali man accused of trying to kill a Danish cartoonist who caricatured the Prophet Muhammad has gone on trial Wednesday in Denmark. Danish intelligence police say they believe he is close to the Islamist movement al-Shabaab.

The prosecutor in the case, Kirsten Dyrman, spoke outside the court on Wednesday.

She said the defendant is accused of an attempted terror attack and attempted murder.

The defendant, 29-year-old Mohamed Geele, allegedly broke into the house of a Danish cartoonist in January last year.

The cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard, drew caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005, which sparked protests around the world.

Prosecutors say Geele broke into Westergaard's home carrying an axe. Westergaard locked himself in a panic room and was unharmed.

The defendant admits breaking into the house, carrying a weapon but says his aim was only to frighten Westergaard, not to kill him.

Danish investigators say they believe Geele has ties to the Somali-based militia group al-Shabaab, which is linked to al-Qaida.

Anoush Ehteshami is from the Center for the Advanced Study of the Arab world at Britain’s Durham University.

He says Al-Shabaab may be spreading its reach beyond East Africa.

"It has expressed disdain for western and U.N. values in Somalia, in Africa, and in the Muslim world but has very lately, very lately, began to articulate a position more consistent with al-Qaida's world view of confronting the West on its own territory and on its own terms," Ehteshami said.

But he says he doesn’t believe the militia is powerful enough to organize a major attack in the West.

"I don't think myself that it has the sustainable basis for carrying organized violence against western targets in Europe and in other western countries,” he added. “But nevertheless given that individuals mobilized and indoctrinated by al-Shabaab can inflict or try to inflict harm is a serious concern."

Ehteshami says the cartoons published half a decade ago will continue to stir resentment. Last month European authorities arrested five people suspected of planning an attack on the Danish newspaper that originally published the controversial images.

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