Danish official: gunman in attacks was inspired by radical Islam.

Danish Official: Gunman Who Killed Two People Was Inspired by Radical Islam

Danish Official: Gunman Who Killed Two People Was Inspired by Radical Islam

The Slatest
Your News Companion
Feb. 15 2015 9:28 AM

Danish Official: Gunman Who Killed Two People Was Inspired by Radical Islam

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A police officer lays flowers outside the main synagogue in Copenhagen on Feb. 15, 2015 following two fatal attacks in the Danish capital.

Photo by Claus Bjorn Larsen/AFP/Getty Images

After a massive manhunt involving “all the country’s police forces,” Danish officials say they shot dead the man who killed two civilians and wounded five police offices in separate attacks on a freedom of speech event and a synagogue. The targeting of an event that featured Lars Vilks—a controversial cartoonist who has faced numerous threats for depicting the Prophet Mohammed—raised fears of a Charlie Hebdo sequel in Copenhagen.

"As a nation, we have experienced a series of hours we will never forget," Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said Sunday. "We have tasted the ugly taste of fear and powerlessness that terror would like to create. But we have also, as a society, answered back."

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Both killings have been characterized as terror attacks, and Jens Madsen, the head of the Danish intelligence agency, says investigators believe the gunman was inspired by Islamic radicalism, reports the Associated Press. The attacker was known to security forces, Madsen said, without going into detail. The Danish intelligence agency “is working on a theory that the perpetrator could have been inspired by the events in Paris. He could also have been inspired by material sent out by [ISIS] and others," he added.

It all began at around 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, when the gunman opened fire with an automatic weapon and shot through the windows of the Krudttønden café during a freedom-of-speech event that featured Vilks. Finn Nørgaard, a 55-year-old film director, was killed at close range after he stepped outside “for some unknown reason,” reports the Guardian. Three officers were wounded. Although initial reports mentioned two shooters, Danish police say there is no indication of other perpetrators, reports the Independent.

"The rather spare audience got to experience fear and horror—and tragedy. I can't say it affected me as I was well looked after," Vilks wrote in a blog post. The BBC obtained an audio recording that captures the moment the gunman started shooting:

Then, at 1 a.m., 37-year-old Dan Uzan was killed while guarding a synagogue during a bat mitzvah celebration. Two police officers were also injured. "He was a member of the community, a fantastic guy," Rabbi Bent Lexner, Denmark's former chief rabbi, told Israeli Army Radio, according to Reuters. "We are in shock … We didn't think such a thing could happen in Denmark."

Vilks was one of nine faces included in a “Most Wanted” poster published by al-Qaida’s Inspire magazine for “crimes against Islam,” reports CNN. Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane “Charb” Charbonnier was also on the list. Since 2007, when he drew the Prophet Mohammed’s head on a dog’s body, Vilks has lived under 24-hour armed-police protection, notes USA Today. Reports claim Vilks slept with an ax by his bed and built a panic room in his home for protection.

If Vilks was indeed the target, it wouldn’t be the first time. Colleen LaRose, a Pennsylvania woman nicknamed “Jihad Jane,” was sentenced to 10 years behind bars for trying to kill him, reports the Guardian. In 2010, two brothers tried to burn down his house, and later that year, seven Irish citizens were arrested for planning to kill him.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.