Danish intelligence foils terror plot against newspaper

The Danish intelligence agency said Wednesday that five men were arrested in connection to a plot against a Danish newspaper only weeks after a terror attack was executed – unsuccessfully – in Sweden.

Mathias Christensen/Polfoto/AP
Danish Intelligence Service head Jakob Scharf (r.) and his Swedish colleague Lars Danielsson, during a press conference in Copenhagen, Wednesday. Five men being accused of a terror plot in a building housing the newsroom of a paper that published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad were arrested Wednesday.

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The Danish intelligence agency said Wednesday that it had arrested five men suspected of an “imminent” terror plot against the Danish newspaper that ran controversial cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in 2005.

The arrests come only a couple of weeks after central Stockholm was rocked by two explosions that Swedish police have deemed a terror attack. The plots in the two Scandinavian countries are unusual because the region has been largely removed, until now, from the terrorism concerns that grip much of Western Europe.

Three of the men linked to the plot in Denmark are Swedish citizens and one of the five men arrested was arrested in Sweden, the New York Times reported. The men are not connected with the attack in Sweden, in which only the bomber was killed.

The men arrested in Denmark are a 44-year-old Tunisian, a 29-year-old Swede born in Lebanon, a 30-year-old Swede, and a 26-year-old Iraqi asylum seeker. The man arrested in Sweden was a 37-year-old Swede with Tunisian roots, Agence France-Presse reported. The Copenhagen Daily reports that the arrests stem from collaboration between Danish intelligence and Swedish law enforcement in a long-term surveillance operation.

The cartoons, published in 2005 in the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten, featured caricatures of the prophet, which are considered blasphemous by most Muslims and prompted anger and violent rioting in some Muslim countries.

The men planned to kill as many as possible in the building housing the newspaper, the Copenhagen Daily reports.

Jakob Scharf, head of PET, described the suspects as “militant Islamists that had connections to international terror networks”.

“The arrests underscore the terrorist threat that Denmark faces, and in particular anyone who is connected to the Mohammed drawings,” Scharf said.

This is not the first time the newspaper has been targeted by someone with suspected ties to terror groups.

Last year, a Somali man wielding an ax attempted to attack the cartoon artist, Kurt Westergaard. The Danish intelligence agency said the man had connections to Al Qaeda and Al Shabab, the Telegraph reported.

And the attack in Sweden may have also been linked to a controversial cartoon – the e-mail threat connected to the attack references Lars Vilks, a Swedish cartoonist who drew caricatures of the prophet Muhammad as a dog in 2007 in the Swedish newspaper Tidningarnas Telegrambyra, the Monitor reported.

“Now, your children — daughters and sisters — will die like our brothers and sisters and children die," the recording said, according to the Times. “Our actions will speak for themselves. As long as you do not end your war against Islam and the insult against the prophet and your stupid support for that pig Vilks.”

The attacks in Sweden and Denmark come as anti-Muslim sentiment grows in Sweden – where the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats recently won 20 seats in parliament – and elsewhere in Europe.

Al Jazeera reports that the Danish Justice minister described the foiled plot as the "most serious attempt in Denmark so far."

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