Prophet Muhammad Cartoonist Death Sparks Swedish Homicide Probe
(Bloomberg) -- Police are investigating a high-speed car crash that killed a Swedish artist known for his depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.
Lars Vilks and two police officers that worked on his security detail died in an apparent accident on Sunday afternoon. No one has been named a suspect in an open-ended probe, Stefan Sinteus, head of the region’s investigations unit, said at a press conference on Monday.
“There is currently no indication that this is any form of attack,” Sinteus said. “We don’t exclude anything, but there is nothing indicating any external impact.”
Vilks is most known internationally for his 2007 depictions of the Prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog, which caused an outrage among many Muslims and put him in the crosshairs of radical islamists. Several plots against his life have been uncovered and he was believed to have been the target when an assailant fired an automatic weapon at a 2015 event in Copenhagen where Vilks had been invited to speak, killing one.
He was under constant police protection after the threats and attacks against him, which also include an attempted arson at his home in southern Sweden. At the time of his death, he was coming back from a dinner with prominent Swedish journalist Stina Dabrowski and her husband, she told national broadcaster SVT in an interview.
Before the drawings of Muhammad, Vilks had a long career as an artist known for provocative pieces, including a driftwood palace built in a nature reserve, which sparked a decades-long legal tussle between the artist and authorities.
Vilks’s car slammed head-on into a truck at a motorway near Markaryd in southern Sweden. The car caught fire and all three passengers died, while the truck driver was taken to hospital, according to local police. Sinteus and Police Chief Carina Persson said the deceased officers had been staffing Vilks’ security detail for several years, and were working full-time with his protection.
Although there was no indication of foul play, police have formally opened a homicide probe to allow all tools to be used in the investigation.
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