Monday, February 16, 2015

Danish Media Identify Suspect in Shooting Case


COPENHAGEN – The suspect in the shootings in Copenhagen this weekend targeting a cultural center and a synagogue that left two people dead and five others wounded was identified by Danish digital media and television networks on Sunday as Omar Abdel Hamid El Hussein.

El Hussein was released from prison two weeks ago after serving part of a sentence for a knife attack on a train in the fall of 2013, the DR public television network reported.

Police, who have not confirmed the suspect’s name or whether he did prison time, said the gunman was a 22-year-old born in Denmark who had been in trouble for violating firearms laws and engaging in acts of violence with street gangs.

The suspect in the shootings was killed by police early Sunday in the capital.

Several people were arrested on Sunday in Copenhagen as police continued investigating the terrorist attacks, Danish media said.

DR said a police source confirmed that the operation took place, but officials have not released any details or said how many people were detained.

Four people were arrested in an operation that involved between 15 and 20 officers at a cybercafe in the multicultural Nørrebro neighborhood, the tabloid Ekstra Bladet reported.

The suspected shooter was killed by police near the main train station in Nørrebro.

Investigators said they were convinced that the gunman acted alone, but police are conducting several operations in Copenhagen to determine the suspect’s movements in the eight hours between the shootings on Saturday.

The Mjølnerparken complex, located in Nørrebro and home to a large immigrant community, was searched on Sunday morning.

The suspect took a taxi to the complex after fleeing from the scene of the first shooting at a cultural center on Saturday.

A 55-year-old Danish filmmaker was killed and three police officers were wounded at the cultural center.

The gunman’s second attack left a member of the Danish capital’s Jewish community dead and three police officers wounded outside a synagogue.

Investigators have identified the gunman, an individual who the security services were aware of, but his name is not going to be released yet, said Jens Madsen, the head of the PET domestic intelligence service.

“We cannot say anything about the motive. But the man possibly acted inspired by the attacks in Paris and extremist organizations,” Madsen said.

There are no indications that the man traveled to Iraq, Syria or any other conflict zone with a presence of Islamist groups, Madsen said.

“The attacks demonstrate that the terrorist threat aimed at Denmark and against Danish interests abroad is serious,” Madsen said.

The 55-year-old man killed at the cultural center has been identified as Danish filmmaker Finn Nørgaard, DR television reported.

Investigators are “pretty much convinced” that the subject was behind both the shooting at the cultural center and the attack at the synagogue, which left a 37-year-old Jewish man dead, inspector Jørgen Skov said.

“There are certain things that point to that being how it happened and nothing yet indicates that he had accomplices, but we must still investigate in more detail,” Skov said in a press conference on Sunday.

Officials have been cautious in discussing the suspected gunman’s motives, although the targets chosen and the presence at the cultural center of Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has received threats from Islamist groups for years, point to an attack by Islamic fundamentalists.

Vilks, who may have been the target of the attack on the cultural center, said Sunday that he feared for his life during the shooting.

“We were listening to a lecture and suddenly it started to come these bang bang sounds and at first it seemed so unreal then the bodyguards reacted and I understood there was an attack going on. It was a scare because you didn’t know if they were coming to the door what would happen” the 68-year-old Vilks told Britain’s ITV by telephone.

Vilks, who has gotten death threats for mocking the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and France’s ambassador to Denmark, Francois Zimeray, attended the “Art, Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression” debate.

“I’m more interesting as a target the more known I am and when you’re in the media you can be even more of a symbolic target and that is how things work,” Vilks said.

An official description of the subject identified him as a man between 25 and 30 with “Arab features.”

“We do not know the motives for the attacks by the supposed author, but we know there are forces that wish ill for countries like Denmark. They want to subjugate our freedom of expression,” Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said.

Saturday’s shootings occurred approximately five weeks after gunmen killed 12 people at Paris-based satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which had published controversial depictions of Muhammad.

Vilks has been under police protection since August 2007, when he published a drawing in Swedish newspaper Nerikes Allehanda that depicted Muhammad as a dog.

Two brothers were sentenced to prison terms of two and three years in 2010 for trying to burn down the artist’s house in southern Sweden.

Three other people accused of plotting to murder Vilks at an art exhibition in the Swedish city of Gothenburg were acquitted two years later.


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