Five held for planning attack on Danish paper

Danish Justice Min said, those detained had a "militant Islamic background".

Last Updated: Dec 29, 2010, 22:44 PM IST

Copenhagen: Police on Wednesday arrested five people suspected of planning to attack the Danish newspaper that outraged Muslims in 2005 with cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.

Denmark`s PET security police said the suspects had planned to enter a Copenhagen office block housing several newspapers including offices of the daily Jyllands-Posten to "kill as many as possible of those around."

Police found a machine gun with a silencer, ammunition and plastic strips that could be used as handcuffs, PET said. It did not say where the items had been seized.

"On the basis of the investigation, it is the PET`s assessment that the detainees were preparing a terror attack against a newspaper, which according to the PET`s information was Jyllands-Posten," it said.

"It is likewise the PET`s view that the attack was due to be carried out in the coming days."

Jyllands-Posten was the newspaper that first published the cartoons, provoking protests against Danish and European interests in the Middle East, Africa and Asia in which at least 50 people died.

Danish Justice Minister Lars Barfoed said those detained had a "militant Islamic background" and called the plan the most serious such attempt in Denmark so far.

Three of the detainees were Swedish citizens, the Swedish security police force SAPO said in a statement. Four were arrested in Denmark and one in Sweden.

The Nordic region, and especially Denmark, attracted the ire of militant Islamists across the world after the 2005 cartoons.

Sketches of the Prophet by Swedish artist Lars Vilks in 2007 sparked similar outrage, but did not prompt immediate violence. Vilks has faced numerous death threats as well as an attempted arson attack on his home.

Both Denmark and Sweden have committed troops to U.S.-led NATO forces in Afghanistan, while Danish soldiers were also stationed in Iraq after the U.S. invasion.

Police uncovered a plot last year to attack Jyllands-Posten, and in January the creator of the most controversial cartoon escaped an axe attack by a man with al Qaeda links.

Last September, a man who was later found to have a map with the address of Jyllands-Posten`s headquarters in the city of Aarhus set off a small explosion in a Copenhagen hotel.

SAPO said the suspects were not linked to an attempted suicide bombing in Stockholm two weeks ago, when a man blew himself up as he was preparing to set off bombs, possibly at a train station or a department store, according to police.

In that case an email -- thought to have come from the bomber -- was sent just before the attack, protesting against Vilks`s sketches and Sweden`s military presence in Afghanistan.

SAPO said police were investigating whether any of the latest suspects was preparing attacks in Sweden.

The Danish cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard, told the Danish daily Berlingske Tidende he expected no respite from such threats.

"I`m worried that this will keep on the rest of my life. These are strong Islamic forces, for whom these drawings have become a symbol for everything that disparages and oppresses Islam," he was quoted as saying.

Bureau Report