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02-13-08, 05:17 AM #1
Police foil plot to kill Muhammad cartoonist
Danish police said Tuesday they have arrested three people suspected of plotting to kill one of the 12 cartoonists behind the Prophet Muhammad drawings that sparked a deadly uproar in the Muslim world two years ago.
Two Tunisians and a Dane of Moroccan origin were arrested in pre-dawn raids in western Denmark, the police intelligence agency said.
The Dane was suspected of violating Danish terror laws but likely would be released after questioning as the investigation continues, said Jakob Scharf, the head of the PET intelligence service. The two Tunisians would be expelled from Denmark, he said.
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The agency didn't mention which cartoonist was targeted. However, according to Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that first published the drawings on Sept. 30, 2005, the suspects were planning to kill its cartoonist Kurt Westergaard.
"There were very concrete murder plans against Kurt Westergaard," said Carsten Juste, the paper's editor-in-chief.
The cartoons were later reprinted by a range of Western publications, and they sparked deadly protests in parts of the Muslim world.
Islamic law generally opposes any depiction of the prophet, even favorable, for fear it could lead to idolatry.
Westergaard, 73, and his wife Gitte, 66, had been living under police protection, Jyllands-Posten reported.
"Of course I fear for my life when the police intelligence service say that some people have concrete plans to kill me. But I have turned fear into anger and resentment," Westergaard said in a statement published on Jyllands-Posten's Web site.
Disbelief at uproar
PET, the police intelligence service, called the action "preventive," saying it decided to strike "at an early phase to stop the planning and the carrying out of the murder."
In the uproar that followed the publishing of the cartoons, Danes watched in disbelief as angry mobs burned the Danish flag and attacked the country's embassies in Muslim countries including Syria, Iran and Lebanon.
Jyllands-Posten was evacuated several times because of threats and posted security guards at its office outside Aarhus and in Copenhagen.
The paper initially refused to apologize for the cartoons, which it said were published in reaction to a perceived self-censorship among artists dealing with Islamic issues, but later said it regretted that the cartoons had offended Muslims.
The Danish government also expressed regrets to Muslims, but noted that it could not interfere with the freedom of the press.
Rage beyond Denmark
Kasem Ahmad, a spokesman for the Copenhagen-based Islamic Faith Community, a network of Muslim groups that spearheaded protests against the cartoons in Denmark, said he hoped Tuesday's arrests would not rekindle the uproar.
"We urge Muslims to take it calmly," he told the TV2 News network.
The rage over the caricatures resonated beyond Denmark. In Germany, two men were accused of planting bombs aboard a pair of German commuter trains in 2006 that failed to explode.
One of the men, Youssef Mohammed el-Hajdib, a Lebanese citizen, is on trial in Duesseldorf. The second man, Jihad Hamad, was convicted in December in Lebanon and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
El-Hajdib told the court last week that Hamad planned the attacks as revenge after some German newspapers reprinted the Muhammad caricatures.
Hamad, however, testified at his trial in Lebanon that el-Hajdib was the initiator of the failed plot. He said el-Hajdib brainwashed him and exposed him to extremist videos and propaganda.
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