STOCKHOLM: Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has lived under police protection since he made a derogatory sketch in 2007, died in a car accident together with two bodyguards on Sunday. He was 75.
Vilks and two plainclothes policemen were killed in a head-on collision with a truck on Sunday afternoon, says the police chief for southern Sweden. All three died on the spot. The 45-year-old truck driver flew to hospital with serious injuries.
The police car, which was driven by one of the bodyguards, had left Stockholm and was heading south when it turned onto the truck’s road. Both vehicles then burned out in flames. The accident occurred near Markaryd, 100 kilometers northeast of Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city.
– There is nothing else that indicates that it was anything other than a traffic accident, Persson said at a press conference.
Sweden’s top police officer, Anders Thornberg, said that an investigation would take place, but was expected to take a relatively long time.
Amanda Lind, the country’s Minister of Culture, called it an extremely tragic traffic accident.
Vilks was largely unknown outside Sweden before 2007, when he drew the sketch.
Al Qaeda had put a premium on Vilk’s head. In 2010, two men tried to burn down his house in southern Sweden.
Since then, Vilks has been forced to live under police protection, due to the fact that “he exercised his freedom of speech and his artistic freedom,” Lind said.
Over the years, Vilks continued to face death threats. In 2014, a Pennsylvania woman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to kill him.
The following year, a freedom of speech seminar that Vilks attended in Copenhagen, Denmark, was attacked by a lone gunman who killed a Danish film director and injured three police officers.
Which, which is widely believed to have been the intended target of the 2015 attack, was taken away unharmed by bodyguards. The shooter later killed a Jewish security guard outside a synagogue and injured two other police officers before being killed in a firefight with police.
Police said they did not know why the car drove into the wrong lane, but they investigated whether a tire might have exploded. The car had puncture-proof tires, police say.
The accident occurred on a north-south highway on Sunday afternoon.
Published in Dawn, October 5, 2021