Algerian ambassador condemns bounty on Muhammad cartoonist

Algeria's ambassador to Sweden on Monday condemned death threats from al-Qaeda in Iraq against a Swedish artist who drew a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad and a newspaper editor who published it.

“I vehemently condemn this kind of practice … Islam has nothing to do with this, by any means,” Merzak Bedjaoui told AFP.

An al-Qaeda front organization in Iraq, the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Iraq, issued a statement on the Internet on Saturday offering $150,000 to anyone who slit the throat of Lars Vilks, whose sketch depicted Muhammad as a dog.

It also offered $50,000 for the death of the editor-in-chief of the Nerikes Allehanda newspaper, Ulf Johansson, who published the caricature.

The group has threatened to strike at top Swedish firms such as telecom giant Ericsson, truckmakers Scania and Volvo, furniture company IKEA and Electrolux, which manufactures white goods, if the country’s “crusaders” did not offer an apology.

“Sweden is an asylum country, one that welcomes people. There are more than 500,000 Muslims living here in peace, in tranquility,” Bedjaoui said.

He stressed however that he disapproved of the decision to publish the cartoon.

“I’ll remind you that freedom of the press does not give you the freedom to insult,” he said.

Vilks is now under police protection.

He returned to Sweden after a visit to Germany at the weekend, but Swedish authorities have not allowed him to return home, he told news agency TT.

“The police consider (the situation) to be serious. I can’t say where I am,” he said.

The cartoon featuring the Muhammad’s head on a dog’s body was originally published in Nerikes Allehanda on August 18th and provoked protests by Muslims in the town of Örebro, west of Stockholm, where the paper is based.

Idolatry is blasphemous in Islam and the depiction of Muhammad in any pictorial form is strictly forbidden.

Egypt, Iran and Pakistan have lodged formal complaints with the Swedish government.

Swedish media have called for dialogue and respect for freedom of the press.