Danish police say they believe a man killed in a shootout Sunday is responsible for attacks at both a free speech forum and a synagogue in Copenhagen.
On Saturday, a gunman stormed a cafe where controversial Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks and his supporters had gathered for a free speech forum. The shooter killed a 55-year-old man and wounded three officers before fleeing, police said.
About 10 hours later, someone approached two officers near a synagogue and started shooting, police said. Those officers were wounded, but another person nearby died.
On Sunday morning, as officers tried to approach a man who may be connected to the attacks, the man opened fire, Copenhagen police said. Police returned fire, killing him. No officers were injured.
While the identity of the shooter was not released, Islamist extremists have made documented threats against Vilks.
Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said she believes that attack was an act of terror.
“Everything points to … the shooting in Oesterbro (being) a political assassination and therefore a terror attack,” Thorning-Schmidt said.
“We have some difficult days ahead … But in Denmark, we will never bow to violence.”
Free speech forum turns deadly
The forum at the cafe Saturday afternoon was interrupted by the sounds of dozens of gunshots.
“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 at 3:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m. ET), as well as 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 committee supports the cartoonist whose portrayals of the Prophet Mohammed angered many in the Muslim world.
Brix said one man there “acted very quickly and courageously” by pushing a woman down to the ground, then putting himself on top of her so she wouldn’t get shot.
Bodyguards returned fire, the Copenhagen police official said. But the gunman managed to flee.
“We are investigating this as a terror attack,” police investigator Joergen Skov said.
After the attack, what appeared to be the man, dressed in dark clothes, carjacked a civilian’s dark Volkswagen Polo and drove away, Danish police said. That vehicle was found between two train stations.
Copenhagen police later tweeted a picture of the suspect, covered up and dressed in dark clothes, wanted in connection with the attack.
The 55-year-old man killed in the cafe shooting hasn’t been identified.
Deadly shooting near synagogue
About 10 hours after the terror attack, someone approached two police officers near a synagogue and started shooting.
The two officers were wounded and survived, but a third person nearby was killed.
The shooter was a man dressed in a light gray jacket, black pants and black shoes.
Investigation leads to shootout
Officers went to an apartment Sunday to investigate the attacks but came under fire, Copenhagen police said.
Police returned fire, fatally shooting the gunman, police said. No officers were injured in the shootout.
Authorities said surveillance images helped lead them to believe the gunman shot was the perpetrator behind the attacks at the cafe and near the synagogue.
Police say while there is no indication there was a second perpetrator, “we need to investigate that.”
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.
“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, Vilks was one of nine faces on a “Most Wanted” graphic published by al Qaeda’s Inspire magazine for “crimes against Islam.” 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.
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, according to the committee.