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Event For Controversial Cartoonist Targeted With Deadly Shooting

ARUN RATH, HOST:

We begin this hour with the latest from Denmark. A shooting at a cafe in Copenhagen today left one person dead and three police officers injured. The shots rang out at a free-speech event attended by Swedish artist, Lars Vilks. He's received death threats in the past for drawing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. Justin Cremer is the editor of The Local, an English news service in Denmark. He joins me now. Justin, a lot of the details are still up in the air. What can you tell us about what happened?

JUSTIN CREMER: Well, as you mentioned, this took place at an event in a Copenhagen cafe. The event was entitled Art, Blasphemy And Freedom Of Expression. And the event was organized by Lars Vilks, who is a controversial Swedish artist. And as the event got underway - under heavy security, I might add because he has had to travel with bodyguards for the last seven, eight years. As the event got underway, shots were fired from outside of the cafe. Four people were hit, three of those being police officers. The fourth was a Danish civilian, a 40-year-old, and unfortunately, that person has died from their wounds.

RATH: Wow. And what was the point of this meeting that Lars Vilks and others were attending?

CREMER: You know, Denmark has quite the history with issues of freedom of expression, particularly related to things regarding the Prophet Muhammad. Obviously, this is the country that produced the original Muhammad cartoons that led to global protests in 2006. And Charlie Hebdo was one of the first publications to reprint those cartoons, and that was, of course, part of the reason that they were attacked last month. So this event was to talk about, you know, where do issues of freedom of expression stand in today's current environment?

RATH: Justin, what's the nature of the neighborhood where this attack took place? What kind of place is it?

CREMER: The attack took place in Osterbro, which is the swankiest district in Copenhagen, so this is certainly not an area where you would think something like this would happen. The venue, as I understand, it's a half cafe, half theater. So you know, you're talking a pretty trendy type place.

RATH: Of course, this shooting comes just a month after the attacks on the French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, in Paris. Since the Charlie Hebdo attacks, has there been a heightened sense of security in Denmark?

CREMER: Well, both yes and no. Denmark has not officially raised its terror levels, but the newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, which was the one who originally published the Muhammad cartoons in 2006, they did increase their security following the Charlie Hebdo attacks. And after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, there was a - call it a foreboding that, you know, Denmark's time, unfortunately, may come. There have been many, many foiled attacks on Denmark in the last seven or eight years, and unfortunately, today, one succeeded.

RATH: Justin Cremer is the editor of The Local, an English news service in Denmark. Danish police say the alleged shooter in this incident is still at large. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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