Did Danish cartoonist attacker try to target Clinton?

A Danish newspaper is reporting that Denmark's intelligence agency knew that the Somali man who on Friday tried to kill a Danish cartoonist had been held in Kenya for allegedly helping to plot an attack against US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

By , Africa editor

The Obama administration is not the only Western government facing fresh scrutiny for failing to prevent a recent attack by an Al Qaeda-linked Islamic extremist.

Now a Danish newspaper is reporting that Denmark's security and intelligence agency, PET, knew that the young Somali man who on Friday tried to kill a Danish cartoonist was held in Kenya in September for allegedly helping to plot an attack against US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (Mrs. Clinton stopped in Kenya during an 11-day-tour of Africa in August.)

The man who burst into Kurt Westergaard's house on New Year's Day wielding an axe and a knife and shouting "revenge" for Mr. Westergaard's controversial 2005 depiction of the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban was released earlier this fall by Kenyan authorities due to lack of evidence, reports the Politiken.

Recommended: Why is the West worried about Somali terrorist group Al Shabab?

Denmark's ambassador to Kenya told the news agency Ritzau, however, that the Somali man was arrested in Kenya for incomplete travel documents, adding that Kenyan authorities never told the embassy that he was suspected in a terror plot.

Still, the PET did admit in a statement that Westergaard's attacker - who cannot be named due to Danish privacy laws – has "close ties to the Somali terror organization Al Shabab as well as to Al Qaeda leaders in East Africa."

The 'panic room'

Even though Westergaard's cartoon ignited riots throughout the Muslim world a few years ago, the news of Friday's attack "shocked many in Denmark who had believed the country's brush with Islamist extremism was consigned to the past," reports the Guardian.

Westergaard was under tight security due to the amount of death threats he has received, and that security may have saved his life.

Once he realized the attacker had broken in, he pressed an alarm to notify police and took his five-year-old granddaughter into a "panic room."

"My grandchild did fine," Westergaard told his newspaper, the Jyllands-Posten. "It was scary. It was close. Really close. But we did it." Westergaard is now in an undisclosed location.

The attacker, however, didn't fare as well. He was shot after reportedly throwing an axe at the police as they arrived. He was later taken to court in a stretcher.

Happy Holidays, from Africa

The New Year's Day attack follows the botched Christmas Day attack of a Northwest plane over Detroit by Nigerian terror suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmuttallab, which has ignited a political firestorm in the US over whether the Obama administration is taking the threat of Islamic terrorism seriously enough.

One thing of note here: both attackers are African. It's rare to see such high-profile attackers from sub-Saharan Africa.

Does this mean there's a surge in Al Qaeda activity across the continent? Hardly.

Still, Al Qaeda has been making in-roads into West Africa through ancient Saharan trade routes, and the Monitor recently took a look at the fight against Al Qaeda in the West African country of Mali.

Across the continent, back in the homeland of Westergaard's attacker, Somalia, Al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage had this to say to reporters: "We are very happy with the Somali national who attacked the house of the Danish cartoonist who previously insulted our prophet Mohammed. This is an honor for the Somali people. We are are glad that anyone who insults Islam should be attacked wherever they are."

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