Five suspects held over plot to attack Danish newspaper

 

Police have arrested five people suspected of planning a Mumbai-style attack to kill as many people as possible in a building housing a Danish paper that outraged Muslims in 2005 with cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.

Denmark’s PET security police said the suspects had planned to enter a Copenhagen office block housing several newspapers, including offices of the daily Jyllands-Posten, to “kill as many as possible of those around”.

PET chief Jakob Scharf said the plot was probably meant to be like the assault on Bombay (Mumbai) in India in 2008. “It is our assessment . . . that the plans were to try to get access to the location where the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Postenis situated in Copenhagen and try to carry out a Mumbai-style attack on that location,” Mr Scharf said. “It is our assessment this is a militant Islamist group and they have links to international terrorist networks.”

Many foreigners, some of India’s wealthy business elite as well as poor commuters, were among the 166 people killed by 10 Pakistani gunmen in a three-day co-ordinated attack through some of Mumbai’s landmarks, including two hotels and a Jewish centre.

Four of the five suspects were detained at flats in two Copenhagen suburbs and one was held in Stockholm, police said.

In connection with the arrests in Denmark, police found a machine gun with a silencer, ammunition and plastic strips that could be used as handcuffs. Mr Scharf said the attack was planned to be made by January 1st.

Jyllands-Posten was the newspaper that first published the Muhammad cartoons, provoking protests against Danish and European interests in the Middle East, Africa and Asia in which at least 50 people died.

Danish justice minister Lars Barfoed said those detained had a “militant Islamic background” and called the plan the most serious such attempt in Denmark so far.

Danish police detained a 44-year-old Tunisian national; a 29-year-old Swedish citizen, born in Lebanon; a 30-year-old Swedish national, whose country of origin was unknown; and a 26-year-old Iraqi asylum applicant.

Simultaneously, Swedish authorities in Stockholm detained a 37- year-old Swedish citizen of Tunisian origin. The suspects will be charged with attempted terrorism, Danish police said.

The head of Swedish security police Sapo, Anders Danielsson, said the Denmark plot did not have any known links to December 11th bomb blasts in Stockholm.

The Nordic region, especially Denmark, attracted the rage of militant Islamists around the world after the 2005 cartoons.

Sketches of the Prophet by Swedish artist Lars Vilks in 2007 sparked similar outrage, but did not prompt immediate violence. Vilks has faced death threats and attempted attack on his home.

In Stockholm, two weeks ago, a man blew himself up as he was preparing to set off bombs, possibly at a train station or a department store, according to police. An e-mail thought to have come from the bomber was sent just before the attack, protesting against Vilks’s sketches and Sweden’s military presence in Afghanistan.

Denmark and Sweden have pledged troops to US-led Nato forces in Afghanistan, while Danish soldiers were stationed in Iraq after the US invasion.

Syria actively encouraged violent protests over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad four years ago in which European embassies in Damascus were attacked, a senior US diplomat said in leaked cables. Charge d’affaires Stephen Seche said Syrian prime minister Naji al-Otari gave instructions for mosque preachers to deliver hard-hitting sermons at weekly prayers on the eve of the protests, according to cables released by the WikiLeaks website.