Seven held over plot to kill cartoonist

 

Gardaí have arrested seven suspects in Waterford and Cork as part of an international investigation into an alleged plot to murder a cartoonist who drew images of the Prophet Muhammad.

The four men and three women - all of whom are foreign nationals – were arrested in a major search operation by Garda specialist units this morning.

The operation’s main focus was on Co Waterford, where three of the men and two of the women were arrested.

The Irish Times understands most of those arrested are from Algeria, Croatia, Libya, the United States and Palestinian, and that they are legally resident in Ireland.

They were arrested as part of an international investigation into an alleged plot to kill Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks.

Mr Vilks had been placed in special police custody for his own safety after his life was threatened in 2007 when his cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed with the body of a dog were published in the Swedish Nerikes Allehanda newspaper.

The leader of an al-Qaeda faction in Iraq offered a reward or $100,000 for anybody who killed Mr Vilks. Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, leader of the self-styled Islamic State in Iraq, upped the reward to $150,000 if Vilks was "slaughtered like a lamb" and offered $50,000 for the head of the editor of the newspaper.

Those arrested in the Republic this morning are being held at Garda stations across Waterford. They can be detained for seven days without charge under Section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act 2007.

The Irish Times understands they are not regarded as members of al-Qaeda or any other extremist grouping. However, this morning's operation involved the Special Detective Unit, which investigates terrorism. A number of other specialist units including the ERU were also involved.

The alleged plot at the centre of the case involves alleged plans to kill Mr Vilks in another country. There were no firearms or explosives found in today's operation and gardaí do not believe the safety of anybody in Ireland was under threat at any time.

The Irish Times understands the Garda search and arrest warrant today was undertaken following information supplied by the FBI to Irish authorities.

"Throughout the investigation An Garda Síochána has been working closely with law enforcement agencies in the United States and in a number of European countries," a Garda statement said. The men and women arrested range in age from mid-20s to late 40s.