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Deadly Shooting At Copenhagen Free Speech Event

  • RFE/RL

Policemen secure the area around a building in Copenhagen, Denmark, where shots during a debate on Islam and free speech.

Policemen secure the area around a building in Copenhagen, Denmark, where shots during a debate on Islam and free speech.

Gunmen have killed one person and injured three police officers during a debate on freedom of expression in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, attended by a controversial Swedish cartoonist.

Police initially said two suspects escaped by car after the February 14 shooting, but later said just one man was involved in the attack

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt denounced the assault as a "cynical act of violence,” adding that "everything leads us to believe that the shooting was a political attack and therefore a terrorist act."

The event at the Krudttoenden cafe and arts venue included Swedish artist Lars Vilks, the author of controversial Prophet Muhammad cartoons, and French ambassador Francois Zimeray.

Both were unharmed during the attack.

Zimeray said by telephone that the attacker fired from the outside, adding that he "didn't manage to get in."

He told the AFP news agency that the attacker was seeking to replicate last month’s deadly assault by Islamist extremists on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Police said the injured officers were not seriously wounded.

Reports said up to 40 shots were fired outside the venue and photos showed the building's glass doors riddled with bullet holes.

A car that police believed was used by the fleeing assailant was later found in central Copenhagen.

Police released a photo of the suspect, showing a man in a dark anorak and a balaclava carrying a bag.

The Associated Press news agency quoted an organizer of the event, Helle Merete Brix, as saying she considered the incident to be an attack on Vilks.

The Swedish artist has faced death threats since causing controversy in 2007 by depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a dog.

In 2010, two brothers tried to burn down the cartoonist's house and were imprisoned for attempted arson.

The February 14 attack in Copenhagen comes after Islamic militants attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris on January 7, killing 12 people.

The attackers shouted "Allahu Aakbar [God is great]" and said they wanted to "avenge the Prophet" during the assault on the weekly, which had drawn repeated threats for its caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called the Copenhagen attack a "terrorist attack targeting a public meeting."

He also said France "remains by the side of the Danish authorities and people in the fight against terrorism."

The French president's office said Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve was headed to Copenhagen soon.

With reporting by AFP, dpa, Reuters, and AP