A group of men arrested in Denmark on Wednesday were about to mount a “Mumbai style” attack on the Danish newspaper that ignited Muslim fury around the world by publishing satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005, the head of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service said.
Several European countries have been on high alert for months over the possibility of an attack modeled on the 2008 assault on Mumbai, India, in which 10 highly trained and heavily armed men stormed hotels, train stations, restaurants, a Jewish center and other sites, in a bloodbath that left 163 dead.
Lars Barfoed, the Danish justice minister, called the plot “the most serious terror attempt in Denmark,” local media reported. The suspects were planning to attack the offices of the newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, before New Year’s Day, the Danish security police said.
The satirical cartoons of Muhammad were commissioned and published by Jyllands-Posten as a statement of freedom of expression. But they were seen as blasphemous and a deliberate provocation by many Muslims, and prompted rioting in some countries and repeated attempts at violent retribution.
4 men to be charged in ‘terror plot’ against Danish newspaper
The men had been under surveillance for months, and were among 200 radicals identified in a recent Swedish intelligence report, according to intelligence sources in Scandinavia.
Sweden raised its terror alert in October. An estimated 300,000 Muslims live in Sweden.
Denmark’s intelligence service said the men had rented a car near Stockholm and driven to Denmark with a sub-machine gun, silencer and ammunition, with the intent of carrying out an attack by the New Year. Swedish authorities say the car was followed by security police who knew there were weapons in the car.
Danish intelligence sources say they are not ruling out a connection between the plotters and Islamist extremists in Scandinavia who were in contact with American citizen David Headley. Headley said he had visited Sweden and Denmark last year.
Headley was arrested in Chicago in October 2009 as he was about to leave for Pakistan. He later confessed to planning the Mumbai attacks and to carrying out a reconnaissance of the offices of the newspaper with the intent of launching a terror attack. Video of the newspaper’s offices was found in his luggage.
There have been several plots against the newspaper building. Earlier this year, a Belgian of Chechen descent was injured in Copenhagen when a bomb he was carrying blew up in a nearby hotel. He is awaiting trial.
Danish counter-terrorism officials say it’s unclear whether Islamic radicalization is growing in Denmark, but believe extremists are more prepared to use violence.
Intelligence analysts point out that the men alleged to have been involved in this latest plot are between ages 26 and 43, and are not the alienated youth often associated with such plots.
These are the cartoons published on page 3 of the Culture section of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, September 2005:
Timeline since publication of Danish Mohammed cartoons
More than 150 people have died in events related to the 2005 publication by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten of satirical cartoons of the Muslim prophet Mohammed.
Islam and Terrorism
Danish court throws out Muslim cartoons lawsuit
Q&A: Depicting the Prophet Muhammad (BBC)
Does Islam really prohibit images of religious figures? (Slate)
Note: it is the policy of Religion News Blog to file articles about Islam-inspired terrorism and other acts of hatred under the ‘Hate Groups’ topic. This does not mean that we consider Islam as a religion to be a hate group. Rather it represents our opinion that Muslims who commit acts of hatred inspired by their view of Islam are hate criminals.