Danish police said yesterday that a Somalian caught breaking into the home of a cartoonist whose work sparked riots across the Muslim world five years ago was a would-be assassin with links to al Qaeda.
The 28-year-old had an axe and a knife when he was shot and wounded by police on Saturday after cartoonist Kurt Westergaard heard windows being broken and pressed a panic alarm at his house in Aarhus.
News of the attack on Westergaard, 74, who was with his 5-year-old granddaughter at the time, shocked many in Denmark who had believed the country's brush with Islamist extremism was consigned to the past.
The suspect was charged yesterday with two counts of attempted murder. He was rolled into a Danish court on a stretcher, his face covered. He was ordered held for four weeks. Westergaard was moved to an undisclosed location. He told his employer, the Jyllands-Posten daily, that he had locked himself and the child in a bathroom as the assailant shouted "revenge" and "blood" and tried to smash his way into the house.
"My grandchild did fine," he said. "It was scary. It was close. Really close. But we did it."
Police Chief Superintendent Ole Madsen told CNN that the pair hid in a panic room inside the house, part of the tight security he has lived with ever since his caricature of the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban was first published by Jyllands-Posten in 2005. Islamic law prohibits any depiction of the Prophet.
The cartoon, one of 12, outraged many Muslims, who make up about 3 per cent of Denmark's 5.5 million population. Three Danish embassies were attacked and at least 50 people died in rioting in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Several young Muslims have since been convicted in Denmark of planning bomb attacks.
The Somalian, who has not been named under Danish privacy laws, was shot in the arm and leg after throwing an axe at an officer and is in custody charged with the attempted murders of the policeman and Westergaard.
He had "close ties to the Somali terror organisation al-Shabaab as well as to al Qaeda leaders in East Africa", the Danish security and intelligence service, PET, said in a statement.
Westergaard's attacker, who has a residence permit for Denmark, is also "suspected of being involved in terror-related activities in East Africa", the statement said.
- OBSERVER, AP