The Swedish artist Lars Vilks – who has lived under police protection since his sketch in 2007 that the caricatured prophet Muhammad made death threats – has died in a car accident, according to several Swedish media reports.
The newspaper Dagens Nyheter said that the artist’s partner confirmed his death and the Swedish news agency TT said that the police had confirmed that Vilks, 75, was traveling in the car with two police officers, who also died. According to the police, a civilian police car and a truck collided and caught fire on Sunday afternoon outside Markaryd. The truck driver was taken to hospital and the cause of the collision was investigated.
In 2015, Vilk’s presence was a key element in the terrorist attacks in Copenhagen: he was a star speaker at a freedom of speech event at a café where an Islamist shooter opened fire, killed a film director and injured three policemen before going to a synagogue and killing a volunteer guard.
National Police Chief Anders Thornberg said: “It was with dismay and great sadness that I received the news that our two colleagues and our security person died this afternoon. My thoughts go to relatives, families, friends and co-workers. ”
Stefan Sintéus, head of the regional investigation unit responsible for personal protection in the region, said: “This is an extremely tragic event. Now it is important for all of us that we do everything we can to find out what happened at the scene and what caused the collision. ”
Vilks was largely unknown outside Sweden before his drawing, which depicted the Prophet Muhammad’s head on a dog’s body. At home, he was best known for having built a sculpture of driftwood in a nature reserve in southern Sweden without a permit, which triggered a long legal battle. He was fined, but the sea sculpture – a tangle of wood that was nailed together in a chaotic way – attracts tens of thousands of visitors a year.
In September 2007, Vilks received a $ 100,000 prize on his head from an al-Qaeda faction in Iraq in response to his drawings.
In 2010, Swedish newspapers published about the controversial cartoon after two Muslim men were arrested and then accused in Ireland in connection with an alleged plan to murder Vilks.
Since then, he has received many death threats and has lived under constant police protection.
In 2013, an American woman who called herself Jihad Jane was sentenced to 10 years in prison for plotting to kill him.
The Lars Vilks Committee awarded its Freedom Prize to Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical newspaper, in October 2014 – three months before the terrorist attack on the Paris office.
Gerard Biard, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, who received the award in Copenhagen, survived the attack because he was in London at the time.
After the Charlie Hebdo attack, Vilks said that even fewer organizations invited him to give lectures amid increased security problems.
With the Associated Press