Three held over 'plot to kill cartoonist'

Tuesday 12 February 2008 14:05 GMT

Danish authorities today arrested two Tunisians and a Dane of Moroccan origin in an alleged plot to murder a cartoonist who drew a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad, the police intelligence chief said.

The three suspects were arrested in a pre-dawn operation in Aarhus, western Denmark, said Jakob Scharf, the head of the PET intelligence service.

The purpose of the operation was "to prevent a terror related assassination of one of the cartoonists behind the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad," Scharf said in a statement.

He said the 40-year-old Dane faced a preliminary charge of violating a Danish terror law, but would likely be released after questioning as the investigation continues. The two Tunisians would be expelled from Denmark because they were considered threats to national security, he said.

Authorities did not say which cartoonist was the intended target, but Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that first published the drawings said the suspects were planning to kill its cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard.

The intelligence chief stressed that the operation was a "preventive measure" and was based on surveillance carried out over a period of time.

"Not wanting to take any undue risks PET has decided to intervene at a very early stage in order to interrupt the planning and the actual assassination," Scharf said.

Jyllands-Posten printed the cartoons on Sept. 30, 2005. They were reprinted by a range of Western publications in early 2006, sparking 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's cartoon, which showed Muhammad wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with a lit fuse, was one of the most controversial.

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