Gunman kills 1 in attack on free speech event in Denmark

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Gunman kills 1 in attack on free speech event in Denmark
A shooting at a Copenhagen cafe is believed to have targeted a controversial cartoonist known for drawing the Prophet Muhammad in the past.
Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, centre, talks during a press conference, at Politigaarden, after shots were fired where an event titled "Art, blasphemy and the freedom of expression" was being held in Copenhagen, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015. Shots were fired Saturday at a cafe in Copenhagen that was hosting a freedom of speech event organized by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has faced numerous threats for caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad. (AP Photo/Polfoto, Janus Engel) DENMARK OUT
Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, right, talks during a press conference, at Politigaarden, after shots were fired where an event titled "Art, blasphemy and the freedom of expression" was being held in Copenhagen, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015. Shots were fired Saturday at a cafe in Copenhagen that was hosting a freedom of speech event organized by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has faced numerous threats for caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad. (AP Photo/Polfoto, Janus Engel) DENMARK OUT
Policemen secure the area around a building in Copenhagen, Denmark, where shots were fired on February 14, 2015 outside the venue of a debate held on Islam and free speech. According to Danish media, the French ambassador to Denmark attended the discussion. Unidentified assailants fired on a building where the debate was being held, the French ambassdor to Denmark told AFP from inside the venue. Reports said that Swedish artist Lars Vilks, the author of controversial Prophet Mohammed cartoons published in 2007 that sparked worldwide protests, was also at the debate. AFP PHOTO / MARTIN SYLVEST / SCANPIX DENMARK +++ DENMARK OUT (Photo credit should read MARTIN SYLVEST/AFP/Getty Images)
Policemen secure the area around a building in Copenhagen, Denmark, where shots were fired on February 14, 2015 outside the venue of a debate held on Islam and free speech. According to Danish media, the French ambassador to Denmark attended the discussion. Unidentified assailants fired on a building where the debate was being held, the French ambassdor to Denmark told AFP from inside the venue. Reports said that Swedish artist Lars Vilks, the author of controversial Prophet Mohammed cartoons published in 2007 that sparked worldwide protests, was also at the debate. AFP PHOTO / MARTIN SYLVEST / SCANPIX DENMARK +++ DENMARK OUT (Photo credit should read MARTIN SYLVEST/AFP/Getty Images)
Policemen secure the area around a building in Copenhagen, Denmark, where shots were fired on February 14, 2015 outside the venue of a debate held on art, blasphemy and free speech. According to Danish media, the French ambassador to Denmark attended the discussion. AFP PHOTO / SCANPIX DENMARK +++ DENMARK OUT (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Policemen secure the area around a building in Copenhagen, Denmark, where shots were fired on February 14, 2015 outside the venue of a debate held on art, blasphemy and free speech. According to Danish media, the French ambassador to Denmark attended the discussion. AFP PHOTO / SCANPIX DENMARK +++ DENMARK OUT (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Policemen secure the area around a building in Copenhagen, Denmark, where shots were fired on February 14, 2015 outside the venue of a debate held on art, blasphemy and free speech. According to Danish media, the French ambassador to Denmark attended the discussion. AFP PHOTO / SCANPIX DENMARK +++ DENMARK OUT (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
An armed security officer runs down a street near a venue after shots were fired where an event titled "Art, blasphemy and the freedom of expression" was being held in Copenhagen, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015. Danish media say several shots have been fired at a cafe in Copenhagen where a meeting about freedom of speech was being held, organized by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has faced numerous threats for caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad in 2007. (AP Photo/Polfoto, Kenneth Meyer) DENMARK OUT
Security officers patrol the perimeter outside a venue after shots were fired where an event titled "Art, blasphemy and the freedom of expression" was being held in Copenhagen, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015. Danish media say several shots have been fired at a cafe in Copenhagen where a meeting about freedom of speech was being held, organized by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has faced numerous threats for caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad in 2007. (AP Photo/Polfoto, Janus Engel) DENMARK OUT
A security officer patrols outside a venue after shots were fired where an event titled "Art, blasphemy and the freedom of expression" was being held in Copenhagen, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015. Shots were fired Saturday at a cafe in Copenhagen that was hosting a freedom of speech event organized by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has faced numerous threats for caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad. (AP Photo/Polfoto, Janus Engel) DENMARK OUT
An armed security officer runs down a street near a venue after shots were fired where an event titled "Art, blasphemy and the freedom of expression" was being held in Copenhagen, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015. Danish media say several shots have been fired at a cafe in Copenhagen where a meeting about freedom of speech was being held, organized by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has faced numerous threats for caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad in 2007. (AP Photo/Polfoto, Kenneth Meyer) DENMARK OUT
Emergency services gather outside a venue after shots were fired where an event titled "Art, blasphemy and the freedom of expression" was being held in Copenhagen, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015. Danish media say several shots have been fired at a cafe in Copenhagen where a meeting about freedom of speech was being held, organized by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has faced numerous threats for caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad in 2007. (AP Photo/Polfoto, Janus Engel) DENMARK OUT
Emergency services gather outside a venue after shots were fired where an event titled "Art, blasphemy and the freedom of expression" was being held in Copenhagen, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015. Danish media say several shots have been fired at a cafe in Copenhagen where a meeting about freedom of speech was being held, organized by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has faced numerous threats for caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad in 2007. (AP Photo/Polfoto, Mikkel Tariq Khan) DENMARK OUT
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COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) - A gunman opened fire Saturday on a Copenhagen cultural center, killing one man in what authorities called a terror attack against a free speech event featuring an artist who had caricatured the Prophet Muhammad.

The shooting, which also wounded three police officers, came a month after extremists killed 12 people at a satirical newspaper in Paris that had sparked Muslim outrage with its depictions of Muhammad.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the shooting, which took place shortly before 4 p.m. Danish police said the gunman used an automatic weapon to shoot through the windows of the Krudttoenden cultural center, which TV footage showed were riddled with bullet holes. The gunman then fled in a carjacked Volkswagen Polo that was found later a few kilometers (miles) away, police said.

They said the victim was a man about 40 who was inside the cultural center. He has not yet been identified. Two of the wounded officers belonged to the Danish security service PET, which said the circumstances surrounding the shooting "indicate that we are talking about a terror attack."

Lars Vilks, a Swedish artist who has faced numerous death threats for caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad, was one of the main speakers at Saturday's panel discussion, titled "Art, blasphemy and freedom of expression." He was whisked away by his bodyguards unharmed as the shooting began.

Vilks, 68, later told The Associated Press he believed he was the intended target of the shooting.

"What other motive could there be? It's possible it was inspired by Charlie Hebdo," he said, referring to the Jan. 7 attack by Islamic extremists on the French newspaper in Paris. He spoke from an undisclosed location for his own security.

Police initially said there were two gunmen but later said they believed there was only one shooter. They described him as 25-30 years old with an athletic build who was carrying a black automatic weapon and released a blurred photograph of the suspect wearing dark clothes and a scarf covering part of his face.

"I saw a masked man running past," said Helle Merete Brix, one of the event's organizers. "I clearly consider this as an attack on Lars Vilks."

Niels Ivar Larsen, one of the speakers at the event, told the TV2 channel, he heard someone shouting and firing automatic weapons. "Police returned the fire and I hid behind the bar. I felt surreal, like in a movie," Larsen said.

Visiting the scene of the shooting, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said "all indications are that the shooting ... was a political attack and therefore an act of terror."

"At first there was panic. People crawled down under tables," Vilks said. "My bodyguards quickly pulled me away."

The cultural center had a lecture hall as well as a cafe. Vilks said no one in the hall was wounded.

"We were well isolated in there. It would have been much worse if this happened during the break, when people walk out," Vilks said.

He said he deplored the death and the injuries but was unfazed as to what it meant for his own safety.

"I'm not shaken at all by this incident. Not the least," he told AP by phone.

Police spokesman Joergen Skov said it was possible the gunman had planned the "same scenario" as in the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

François Zimeray, the French ambassador to Denmark who was at the event to speak about the Charlie Hebdo attack, tweeted that he was "still alive." Police said he was not wounded.

French President Francois Hollande called the Copenhagen shooting "deplorable" and said Thorning-Schmidt would have the "full solidarity of France in this trial." French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve was arriving Sunday in Copenhagen.

European Union officials also condemned the attack.

Sweden's security service said it was sharing information about the case with its Danish counterparts.

Vilks has faced several attempted attacks and death threats after he depicted the Prophet Muhammad as a dog in 2007. A Pennsylvania woman last year got a 10-year prison term for a plot to kill Vilks. In 2010, two brothers tried to burn down his house in southern Sweden and were imprisoned for attempted arson.

Vilks told the AP after the Paris terror attacks that, due to increased security concerns, even fewer organizations were inviting him to give lectures.

The depiction of the prophet is deemed insulting to many followers of Islam. According to mainstream Islamic tradition, any physical depiction of the Prophet Muhammad - even a respectful one - is considered blasphemous.

While many Muslims have expressed disgust at the deadly assault on the Charlie Hebdo employees, many were also deeply offended by its cartoons lampooning Muhammad. The weekly newspaper also lampoons other religions, as well as governments and politicians.

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