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Updated: January 2, 2010 12:47 IST

Danish police foil attempt on cartoonist

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Danish cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard, sits in the offices of Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in Aarhus, Denmark. File photo
Danish cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard, sits in the offices of Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in Aarhus, Denmark. File photo

A Somali man wielding an axe and a knife was shot by police as he allegedly attempted to kill an artist who drew a cartoon in 2005 that sparked outrage in the Muslim world, the head of Denmark’s intelligence agency said on Saturday.

Jakob Scharf said in a statement that a 28-year-old man with ties to al-Qaeda attempted to enter Kurt Westergaard’s home in Aarhus shortly after 10 p.m. (21.00 GMT) on Friday. But Mr. Westergaard pressed an alarm and police arrived minutes later, foiling the attempt on his life.

The attack on the artist, whose rendering was among 12 that led to the torching of Danish diplomatic offices in predominantly Muslim countries in 2006, was “terror related,” Mr. Scharf said.

Mr. Westergaard, whose 5-year-old granddaughter was in the home on a sleepover, sought shelter in a specially made safe room when the suspect broke a window of the home, said Preben Nielsen of the Aarhus police.

Officers arrived two minutes later and tried to arrest the assailant, who wielded an axe at a police officer. The officer then shot the man in a knee and a hand, authorities said. Mr. Nielsen said despite his injuries the suspect’s life was not in danger.

The suspect’s name was not released in line with Danish privacy rules.

“The arrested man has according to PET’s information close relations to the Somali terrorist group, al-Shabaab, and al-Qaeda leaders in eastern Africa,” Mr. Scharf said. The PET is Denmark’s intelligence agency.

Mr. Scharf said without elaborating that the man is suspected of having been involved in terror-related activities in east Africa. He had been under PET’s surveillance but not in connection with Mr. Westergaard, he said

The man, who had a staying permit in Denmark, was to be charged on Saturday with attempted murder for trying to kill Mr. Westergaard and a police officer, Mr. Scharf said.

It was unclear whether the suspect managed to actually get inside the home of the 75-year-old cartoonist in Denmark’s second largest city, 200 kilometers northwest of Copenhagen.

Mr. Westergaard could not be reached for comment. However, he told his employer, the Jyllands-Posten daily, that the assailant shouted “revenge” and “blood” as he tried to enter the bathroom where Mr. Westergaard and the child had sought shelter.

“My grandchild did fine,” Mr. Westergaard said, according to the newspaper’s Web edition. “It was scary. It was close. Really close. But we did it.”

Mr. Westergaard was “quite shocked” but was not injured, Mr. Nielsen said.

In 2008, Danish police arrested two Tunisian men suspected of plotting to murder Mr. Westergaard. Neither suspect was prosecuted. One of them was deported and the other was released on Monday after an immigration board rejected PET’s efforts to expel him from Denmark.

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