A lone gunman opened fire outside of a cafe in Copenhagen that was hosting an event titled “Art, blasphemy and the freedom of expression.” One person was killed and 3 police officers were wounded.
The meeting was being held to mark the anniversary of the 1989 fatwa against Salman Rushdie issued by Ayatollah Khomeini after Rushdie penned The Satanic Verses.
The shooter never made it into the cafe thanks to the police presence. He managed to fire about 200 shots into the cafe before fleeing in a car with a possible accomplice.
Inside the cafe was Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has faced death threats for caricaturing the prophet Muhammad. He is best known for his infamous 2007 cartoon depicting the prophet Muhammad’s head on the body of a dog.
“They fired on us from the outside. It was the same intention as [the 7 January attack on] Charlie Hebdo except they didn’t manage to get in,” Zimeray told AFP.
“Intuitively I would say there were at least 50 gunshots, and the police here are saying 200. Bullets went through the doors and everyone threw themselves to the floor,” the ambassador added.
“We managed to flee the room, and now we’re staying inside because it’s still dangerous. The attackers haven’t been caught and they could very well still be in the neighbourhood.”
Neither Vilks nor Zimeray were injured, but at least one person was killed in the attack at about 3pm GMT. The gunmen fled the scene by car.
Eyewitnesses said that the police officers were injured outside the cafe.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Danish police, in a statement, said they were looking for the perpetrators who drove away in a dark Volkswagen Polo after the shooting. The victim was a 40-year-old man who was inside the cafe attending the event. He has not yet been identified.
The Danish security service said in a statement the circumstances surrounding the shooting “indicate that we are talking about a terror attack”.
Niels Ivar Larsen, one of the speakers at the event, told Denmark’s TV2: “I heard someone firing with automatic weapons and someone shouting. Police returned the fire and I hid behind the bar. It felt surreal, like in a movie.”
Helle Merete Brix, one of the meeting’s organisers, said: “I saw a masked man running past. I clearly consider this as an attack on Lars Vilks.”
Several plots to kill Vilks have been thwarted by authorities. A 2010 plan by 7 jihadists was foiled and the suspects arrested. At the same time, a US woman known as “Jihad Jane” was arrested for trying to recruit gunman for a hit on Vilks. In 2013, Vilks made it to the Al-Qaeda’s list of “Most Wanted,” along with Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Stéphane Charbonnier, who was killed in the Paris attacks last month.
Vilks had a $100,000 bounty on his head placed there by Al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2007. AQIA eventually became Islamic State after joining the Syrian civil war.
It’s very tempting to connect the dots from the Charlie Hebdo shooting to Copenhagen, and project potential attacks against other al-Qaeda targets like Geert Wilders and the cartoonists from the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten which published Muhammad cartoons in 2006. Islamic State, or al-Qaeda, or both may have decided to settle long standing scores against their most hated enemies.
If that’s the case, another attack may be imminent.