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Three Shot in Copenhagen Blasphemy Debate as French Ambassador Speaks

[1:25 PM EST – John Hayward] The title of the event, according to an Associated Press report, was “Art, Blasphemy, and the Freedom of Expression.”  Some eyewitness accounts of the attack:

Helle Merete Brix, one of the event’s organizers, told The Associated Press that Vilks was at the free speech event Saturday but was not hit.

“I saw a masked man running past,” Brix said. “I clearly consider this as an attack on Lars Vilks.”

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Danish police, in a statement, said they were looking for the perpetrators who drove away in a dark Volkswagen Polo after the shooting, which took place shortly before 4 p.m. (1500 GMT, 10 a.m. EST).

“I heard someone firing with an automatic weapons and someone shouting. Police returned the fire and I hid behind the bar. I felt surreal, like in a movie,” Niels Ivar Larsen, one of the speakers at the event, told the TV2 channel.

Brix said she was ushered away with Vilks by one of the Danish police guards that he gets whenever he is in Denmark.

French President Francois Hollande denounced the attack as “deplorable” and expressed France’s “full solidarity” with Denmark, dispatching his Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve to Copenhagen as quickly as possible.

[1:15 PM EST – John Hayward] One civilian was also reportedly killed in the attack, although it apparently wasn’t Lars Vilks or the French ambassador to Denmark, who was also present at the event.  The slain victim has been identified as a 40-year-old Danish man.

The UK Telegraph reports the police describe the suspects as wearing black and speaking Danish.  There have been reports that their abandoned escape vehicle has been found.  Reports on the number of rounds fired during the incident range from as low as 30 to over 200.

Inna Schevchenko, a member of a Ukrainian feminist group who was speaking at the event, told the Telegraph that the shots ran out while she was delivering her address.  She had just reached the point in her speech where she was “saying that often it is an illusion that we have freedom of speech in Europe.”

***

Three police officers have been wounded in a shooting in a Copenhagen café that was hosting a debate on freedom of speech. The debate featured the French ambassador to Denmark and cartoonist Lars Vilks, who is known for drawing cartoons of Mohammed.

The two assailants are still at large after reportedly fleeing the scene in a dark Volkswagen Polo.

The shots were fired just after the French ambassador had finished speaking. He later confirmed in a tweet that he was unharmed:

Some 30 bullet holes have been found at the site which was hosting “Art, Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression”. There are also unconfirmed reports of a civilian casualty.

Event organiser Helle Merte Brix told AP that the shooting was an “obvious assassination attempt” on cartoonist Lars Vilks. He has lived under heavy security after drawing a picture of Mohammed as a dog in 2007.

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