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Danish police arrest five to foil newspaper terror attack

Five people have been apprehended over an alleged plan to attack a Danish newspaper. The daily has been the target of several alleged plots since printing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed five years ago.

Man with face mask

The suspects are militant Islamists with interational ties

Danish and Swedish police have arrested five people on suspicion of plotting a terrorist attack against the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which printed the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed in 2005.

The head of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service Jakob Scharf said the suspects were planning to force their way into the newspaper's Copenhagen offices with the intention of killing as many people as possible.

Soon after the arrest, police said they evacuated a building were one of the five suspects being held was arrested after finding what appeared to be explosives.

Police also confiscated a submachine gun with a silencer as well as plastic cable bands that could be used for tying people up.

Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said he was shocked by the plot, saying it demonstrated that Denmark faced a serious terror threat. But the country would not change its "open society" values and would protect freedom of speech, he said.

Danish Justice Minister Lars Barfoed described the plot as "the most serious to date in Denmark," in an email to Danish news agency Ritzau.

Jyllands-Posten office

The plot is the most serious to-date in Denmark

A few days away

Elmar Thevessen, a terrorism expert with German public television, told Deutsche Welle the plot was in its final stages.

"The police have told the media that the suspects were only a few days away from committing those atrocities," he said.

A 44-year-old Tunisian, a 29-year-old Lebanese-born Swede, a 30-year-old Swede and a 26-year-old Iraqi asylum seeker were all arrested in Denmark, and a 37-year-old Swede of Tunisian background was arrested in Sweden.

Four of the five suspects lived in Sweden and three had Swedish citizenship, the Swedish security service said.

No connection to Stockholm bombing

The head of SAPO, Sweden's secret police, Anders Danielsson, said in a statement that the arrests were the result of close cooperation between Danish and Swedish security forces.

SAPO said the plot did not appear to be connected to an attempted suicide bombing in Stockholm on December 11, when a man blew himself up in a busy shopping street.

However, authorities would not rule out links between the new arrests and an American man, David Headly, who was arrested in the US for his own alleged plans to attack the Danish newspaper.

A group of men buring a Danish flag

The cartoons prompted riots in parts of the Muslim world

Cartoon uproar

In 2005 the Jyllands-Posten printed a series of cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammed, sparking angry protests in parts of the Muslim world.

The daily paper has since been the target of several alleged plots, and the creator of one cartoon, Kurt Westergaard, survived an attack by an axe-wielding Somali man in his home in January.

Terrorism expert Elmar Thevessen says that anger over the Muhammed caricatures is still fresh after five years.

"What we see on the internet through the jihadist propaganda is that this is still a big issue," Thevessen told Deutsche Welle.

"I think in the future we will see more attempts to take revenge for the publication of the Muhammed caricatures," he added.

Author: Sarah Harman (Reuters, dpa, AFP)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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