Denmark was on high alert after 2 people were killed and 5 wounded in shootings at a Copenhagen cafe hosting a freedom of speech debate and another attack the same day at a Jewish synagogue in another part of the city. The gunman has since been shot dead by police, leaving the tragic event with a death count of 3.
At about 3:30pm local time on Saturday, a masked man, now identified as 22-year-old Danish-born Omar El-Hussein, attacked the Krudttønden cafe during a freedom of speech meeting that was attended by controversial Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who had depicted the prophet Muhammad with a body of a dog- an animal Muslims believe are unclean- in a cartoon he published in 2007, causing him and Denmark to become a target for terrorists.
30 to 40 shots were fired from the outside, as the cafe turned into pure panic. Finn Nørgaard, 55, a film director attending the event, was shot dead. 3 police officers were injured, but survived.
Helle Merete Brix, organizer of the event at the cafe, told Reuters, “The security guards shouted ‘Everyone get out!’ and we were being pushed out of the room. They tried to shoot their way into the conference room … I saw one of them running by, wearing a mask. There was no way to tell his face.”
Police believe the attack was directed at Vilks, who was unharmed. Vilks has been under Swedish police protection since 2010, when 7 Irish citizens were arrested over separate plots to kill him. An American citizen Colleen LaRose, aka Jihad Jane, was also arrested and later jailed for 10 years because of her plot to kill Vilks, according to BBC. In March 2013, he was placed on al-Qaeda’s “most wanted” list.
About 10 hours later at 1 am, El-Hussein attacked again and shot dead 37-year-old Dan Uzan, who was volunteering to guard the synagogue in Krystalgade during a bat mitzvah celebration. 2 police officers were injured at the synagogue, but their injuries were non-life threatening.
El-Hussein opened fire on police officers near a train station in Copenhagen later that night, and he was fatally shot by the cops. El-Hussein was “known to authorities” prior to the shooting and he acted alone had a record of violence, gang-related activities and weapons possession.
“We feel certain now that it was a politically motivated attack, and thereby it was a terrorist attack,” Denmark’s prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, said. “We are on high alert all over the country.”
“Denmark and France are the same nations, feeling the same sadness but also the same will to resist, fight and defeat terrorism,” French President Francois Hollande said, referring to the tragic Paris terrorist attacks on January 7, 2015 that left 17 dead.