Swedish Police Hide Threatened Cartoonist
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
STOCKHOLM, Sept. 17 -- A Swedish cartoonist who depicted the prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog said Monday that police have taken him to a secret location and told him he cannot return home because of a death threat from insurgents in Iraq.
Lars Vilks, who was whisked away by police when he returned to Sweden from Germany on Sunday, said authorities have described the threats against him as "very serious."
"Police guard was nonexistent before this. It's 100 percent now," Vilks said in a telephone interview. "I can't live in my home."
Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, a Sunni insurgent umbrella organization believed to have been created by al-Qaeda in Iraq, offered $100,000 over the weekend for Vilks's murder. Al-Baghdadi said the bounty would be upped to $150,000 if Vilks was "slaughtered like a lamb," and he offered $50,000 for the killing of the editor of a newspaper that reprinted the cartoon last month after Swedish art galleries refused to exhibit it.
"We are calling for the assassination of cartoonist Lars Vilks who dared insult our Prophet," al-Baghdadi said, according to transcripts of Islamic Web sites, "and we announce a reward during this generous month of Ramadan."
Sweden's secret police called in extra personnel over the weekend to work on the case, said a spokesman, Jakob Larsson.
Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has called for mutual respect among Muslims, Christians and nonreligious groups in an attempt to avert a wider conflict in a country that has received more than 18,000 Iraqi refugees over the past year.
"We are urging calm. We are urging thoughtfulness," Reinfeldt told the Swedish TT news agency. "We shall reject all those who call for violence and will oppose extremists' attempts to worsen the matter."