Dec. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Danish and Swedish police arrested five “militant Islamists” suspected of preparing a terrorist attack in Denmark targeting the newspaper which printed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
Danish police arrested four people near Copenhagen and confiscated a submachine gun with a silencer and ammunition, the PET, Denmark’s Security Intelligence Service, said today in an e-mail. Police also confiscated plastic strips that can be used as handcuffs.
Newspaper Jyllands-Posten has been the target of several threats and thwarted attack plans since it published the drawings in 2005 which also sparked global protest and the torching of Danish embassies in Muslim countries including Syria. David Coleman Headley, a Chicago resident who this year pleaded guilty to planning the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, has also said he prepared an assault on the newspaper.
“With the arrests we have prevented an imminent terrorist attack involving several suspects, who must be described as militant Islamists with links to international terrorist networks,” Jakob Scharf, head of the PET, said in the statement. He said the suspects probably planned to break into the newspaper’s Copenhagen office and “kill as many people as possible.”
Danish police arrested a 44-year-old with Tunisian citizenship, a 29-year-old Lebanon-born Swedish citizen and a 30-year-old Swedish citizen, whose country of origin PET hadn’t yet established. All three, whose names weren’t disclosed, had travelled from Sweden to Denmark late yesterday, PET said. In addition, Danish police arrested a 26-year-old Iraqi asylum-seeker living in Denmark.
“The group’s plans to kill as many as possible is very frightening and this is possibly the most serious terrorism attempt so far in Denmark,” Lars Barfoed, the Danish justice minister, said in an e-mailed statement.
Swedish police arrested a 37-year-old Swedish citizen of Tunisian origin in Stockholm, PET said.
“A serious terror crime” in Denmark has been avoided through close cooperation between the Swedish and Danish security services, Anders Danielsson, head of Sweden’s Security Service said in a statement.
Danish police arrested a Somali man in January after he broke into the home of Kurt Westergaard, one of the 12 cartoonists, whose drawing depicted the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban. The intruder, who police said has ties to al-Qaeda, had attempted to break down Westergaard’s bathroom door with an axe.
PET said Nov. 23 it had received “indications” that groups outside Denmark are attempting to send terrorists into the country to conduct attacks.
Sweden had its first brush with what police are treating as a terrorist attack on Dec. 11, when a suspected suicide bomber injured two people and killed himself in central Stockholm when his explosives detonated by mistake in a side alley to a busy shopping street. Police said on Dec. 13 they are almost certain the man was Taimour Abdulwahab, a 28-year-old Iraqi-born Swede.
Swedish police said today’s arrests had no known connections with the suicide bombing and did not warrant changing the terror threat assessment in Sweden from its current “elevated” status. Both Denmark and Sweden have troops in Afghanistan, serving as part of the International Security Assistance Force.
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