Vilks ‘not shaking with fear’ over murder plot

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.

“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.