Vilks ‘not shaking with fear’ over murder plot

Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks said he was undaunted by revelations of a plot on his life after seven people were arrested in Ireland on Tuesday.

Vilks 'not shaking with fear' over murder plot

“I’m not shaking with fear, exactly,” Lars Vilks told Swedish news agency TT.

“I have prepared in different ways and I have an axe here in case someone should manage to get in through the window,” added Vilks, who since the publication of his drawing of the Muslim prophet Muhammad as a dog three years ago has had a $100,000 bounty on his head from an Al-Qaeda-linked group.

His comments followed news that four men and three women, all Muslims originally from Morocco and Yemen, had been arrested in southern Ireland over an alleged plot to assassinate him.

Vilks said he had received threatening phone calls from Somalia at the beginning of the year and that the Swedish security police, Säpo, had since warned him there was a heightened threat level against him.

“But I didn’t think it was that serious,” he told TT.

Säpo spokesman Mattias Lindholm told AFP that the agency was informed about the international operation leading up to Tuesday’s arrests.

“We have cooperated … Right now we are in continuous touch with the authorities involved, including our Irish counterparts,” he said.

Lindholm refused to comment on the threats against Vilks or on Säpo’s actions to protect him.

Swedish newspaper Nerikes Allehanda published a cartoon on August 18, 2007 depicting the Prophet Mohammed as a dog to illustrate an editorial on self-censorship and freedom of expression and religion.

The cartoon prompted protests by Muslims in the town of Örebro, west of Stockholm, where the newspaper is based. Egypt, Iran and Pakistan made formal complaints and death threats were issued against Vilks.

An Al-Qaeda front organisation offered $150,000 to anyone who slit Vilks’ throat or $100,000 for his murder by other means, while they also offered $50,000 to kill newspaper editor-in-chief Ulf Johansson.


Swedish artist Lars Vilks, known for Muhammad cartoon, killed in car accident

Swedish artist Lars Vilks, known for his cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad as well as his huge wooden sculptures, died in a car accident on Sunday.

Swedish artist Lars Vilks gives a lecture
Swedish artist Lars Vilks, pictured here giving a lecture in 2015, died in a car collision on Sunday. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

The 75-year-old has lived under police protection due to death threats over his 2007 Prophet Muhammad drawing. He and two police officers were killed in a collision with an oncoming truck, Swedish police confirmed to AFP, and the accident is currently not being treated as suspicious.

“This is being investigated like any other road accident. Because two policemen were involved, an investigation has been assigned to a special section of the prosecutor’s office,” a police spokesperson told AFP, adding that there was no suspicion of foul play.

The accident occurred near the small town Markaryd when the car Vilks was travelling in crashed into an oncoming truck. Both vehicles caught fire and the truck driver was sent to hospital for treatment, according to police. In a statement, the police said the cause of the accident was unclear.

“The person we were protecting and two colleagues died in this inconceivable and terribly sad tragedy,” said regional police head Carina Persson.

Vilks had been under police protection since 2010, after his cartoon of Muhammad with a dog’s body published in Swedish newspapers three years earlier prompted outrage among those who consider depictions of the Muslim prophet deeply offensive or blasphemous. Al-Qaeda offered a $100,000 reward for Vilks’ murder.

The depiction also sparked diplomatic friction, with Sweden’s then prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt meeting ambassadors from several Muslim countries to ease tensions. In 2015, Vilks survived a gun attack at a free-speech conference in Copenhagen that left a Danish film director dead.

While the Muhammad drawing is what Vilks was best known for internationally, he was primarily a sculptor.

His most significant work is the driftwood sculpture Nimis, which he began building in a Skåne national park in 1980.

This work was also not without controversy; Vilks built it illegally without acquiring a permit, sparking a legal dispute with local authorities who demanded it be destroyed. The artist sold both Nimis and a second artwork, and although he was fined for building them, and Nimis was badly damaged in a 2016 fire, they remain largely standing today.