2021-10-04 17:39:53 Lars Vilks, Known for Muhammad Caricature, Dies in Crash in Sweden

Lars Vilks, Known for Muhammad Caricature, Dies in Crash in Sweden

Lars Vilks, a cartoonist and free speech activist whose depiction of the Prophet Muhammad on the body of a dog in 2007 made him the target of numerous assassination attempts, was killed in a car crash in Sweden on Sunday, according to police.

Mr. Vilks, who had been under police protection since 2010, was on his way home to southern Sweden when the civilian police vehicle he was riding in veered across the median and collided head-on with a truck, killing Mr. Vilks, 75, and his two bodyguards, according to police.

The truck driver was seriously injured and was taken to the hospital.

“We are investigating the possibility of a tire explosion,” said Stefan Sinteus, a regional police official, during a news conference on Monday. “At this point, there is nothing to suggest that this was an assassination.”

Mr. Sinteus stated that the two officers killed in the crash had known Mr. Vilks for several years.

The accident happened on a four-lane highway in Markaryd, about 300 miles southwest of Stockholm, on Sunday afternoon.

Many Muslims consider depictions of Muhammad to be blasphemous, and cartoons like Mr. Vilks’s have sparked widespread outrage over the years. In 2005, a Danish newspaper published a caricature of Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban, sparking violent protests by Muslims.

Islamic militants stormed the Paris office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which had reprinted the cartoon, in 2015, killing 12 people.

Mr. Vilks’ black-and-white drawing was published in a regional paper in Sweden in 2007 and was condemned by Muslims in the country as well as the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a 57-member umbrella organization.

Mr. Vilks later received death threats, and an Al Qaeda-linked group placed a $100,000 bounty on his head, forcing him to temporarily relocate to a secret location.

Following the publication of the cartoon, Mr. Vilks received numerous threats.

He was assaulted in 2010 while giving a free speech lecture at Uppsala University in Sweden. That same year, two brothers were imprisoned for attempting to burn down his house. In a separate incident, a suicide bomber targeted Mr. Vilks by sending messages to several Swedish news organizations before detonating two explosives in central Stockholm and killing himself.

In 2015, a gunman attacked a cafe in Copenhagen where Mr. Vilks was speaking at an event called “Art, Blasphemy, and Freedom of Expression,” killing a filmmaker and injuring three police officers. Helle Merete Brix, one of the event’s organizers, stated that she believed Mr. Vilks was the intended target, despite the fact that he was unharmed in the shooting. The police later stated that they had shot and killed a man they believed was responsible for the cafe attack as well as another attack at a synagogue that killed one person.

According to The Associated Press, Mr. Vilks traveled with armed bodyguards following the attacks. “It’s like starting over,” he said. “Everything is different now. I have to accept that I will not be able to return home. I’ll have to find another place to live.”

Despite offending Muslims and receiving death threats, Mr. Vilks said he had no regrets about the cartoon. “I’m not interested in offending the prophet,” Mr. Vilks told The Associated Press in 2010. “The point is to demonstrate that you can. There is nothing so sacred that it cannot be offended.”

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Lars Vilks, Known for Muhammad Caricature, Dies in Crash in Sweden