Unsuccessful New Year’s Assault on Danish Cartoonist

Somalia_Islamic_Courts_Flag.svgThe US had its failed terror attack on Christmas Day (occuring in the skies around Detroit, if the festive season has kept you from paying attention). Now Denmark has its own such incident, for New Year’s: a Danish-speaking man of Somali origin was shot and arrested yesterday evening as, armed with an axe and a knife, he broke into the house near the city of Aarhus of Kurt Westergaard, one of the Danish cartoonists who, with their drawn interpretations of the prophet Mohammed, raised the ire of the Muslim world starting in late 2005.

Naturally, this is the subject of extensive coverage today in the Danish press. This includes the Danish news agency Ritzau so that, as is usual with a major Danish story, identical articles attributed to that agency make up the core coverage of most on-line papers, supplemented here and there by original in-house reporting.

What better instance of the latter to refer to first than that from Jyllands-Posten, the paper that published the Mohammed cartoons in the first place? “It was tight. It was really tight,” was the 74-year-old Westergaard’s comment to JP reporters in the aftermath of the attack, in which the 28-year-old Somali broke into his house and went after him with the axe and knife. Westergaard survived only by being able to escape into the inner bathroom which he had previously made into a locked-down “safe room”; his five-year-old grandson was also present and also survived unhurt. While escaping, Westergaard was also able to set off an alarm, which brought the police within three minutes. They spotted the accused as he was leaving the house, whereupon he also attacked them with his axe and knive and had to be shot, once in the right-leg and the left-hand. (“A most un-Danish situation!” remarked Chief Police Inspector Bent Preben Nielsen at a news conference afterwards.)

The Jyllands-Posten reporters further write that two more suspects are thought to be involved in the attack, although there was just the one attacker, and he left no bomb or anything of that sort behind at Westergaard’s residence. The Danish Police Investigation Service (PET) was quickly able to link him to al-Shabaab, a Somali-based terror organization with ties to al-Qaeda. Another Ritzau report has him taken into court in Aarhus on a stretcher, just a few hours ago (i.e. midday on Saturday, 2 January), with both areas in which he was shot in a cast. Nonetheless, he pled “Not Guilty” in his preliminary hearing.

Introducing Al-Shabaab

Now, “al-Shabaab”? We get further insight into this new terror organization from another Ritzau piece, appearing in the Danish Christian newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad, among others, citing a terror-expert at Aarhus University, one Prof. Mehdi Mozaffari. That organization is based mostly in Somaliland, the northern part of Somalia that completely lacks any sort of governmental authority, where it has been active for five or six years and probably has received some of its funds from the notorious pirates that operate there to prey on the international sea lanes off the coast. Then there’s a further source in Mohammed Gelle, chief of an organization in Denmark called the Somali Network, who adds that al-Shabaab was formerly just a political organization within Somalia, marked by a blend of nationalism and religious fervor, until it was forced out of a government coalition and took to terror activities. He adds that it only became serious about working together with al-Qaeda a few weeks ago, when the Americans (via the pilotless drones?) killed a highly-placed al-Shabaab leader in Pakistan.

There have already been reactions to the attack among various Danish political figures; strangely, perhaps (at least to any American observers), none has seen fit to use the incident to launch any attack on the current Danish government of Lars Løkke Rasmussen for security-carelessness. Anyway, there’s also a Ritzau article about what political reaction there was – of course – but I’d prefer to consult instead a Jyllands-Posten piece produced in-house on the same subject. Yes, they’re all appalled (rystet), and Aarhus’ mayor Nicolai Wammen is particularly good with his statement of defiance. (An extract: “We in Aarhus will never allow sinister terrorists to set the frame of public debate and the workings of democracy.”) But it’s the anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party (DF) that of course is in the best position to reap political gain. As the statement from DF leader Pia Kjaersgaard reads:

The attack on Kurt Westergaard is very unpleasant and serves as a rude reminder that an earlier time’s naive immigration policy has made it possible that we now have a group of people in the country who are willing to use violence to overturn Danish democracy in its present form. We therefore must make it much easier to expel terrorists and their sympathizers [from the country].

Kjaersgaard went on to demand that the government compile a report on how many “terrorist-related Islamists” are in prison in the country, with a view towards in fact starting proceedings to expel them. Note that the DF is not part of the current governing coalition, but it still a powerful party on the Danish scene, with much influence.

Oh, and if you were wondering, Somalis living in Denmark are shocked over the incident, according to their “Somali Network” spokesman, Mohamed Gelle – in another Ritzau article appearing (among other places) in the leading paper Berlingske Tidende.

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