COPENHAGEN: Copenhagen police said early on Sunday they had shot a man dead hours after fatal gun attacks targeting the Danish capital’s main synagogue and a debate on Islam and free speech.
Police are investigating whether the man was behind the shootings.
Lars Vilks, the Swedish cartoonist whose controversial caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed sparked worldwide protests in 2007, had been among the speakers at the Krudttoenden cultural center when a man opened fire on Saturday.
A 55-year-old civilian was killed when the gunman sprayed bullets at the cultural center, while a young Jewish man was gunned down outside the synagogue in central Copenhagen early on Sunday.
Five police officers were wounded in the two attacks.
A massive police manhunt was launched after the gunman fled the scene following both shootings.
Early on Sunday, police said they had shot and killed a man after he fired at officers in the inner-city neighborhood of Noerrebro, where police had been keeping an address under observation.
“The police are now investigating if the person could be behind the shootings at Krudttoenden and the synagogue in Krystalgade,” police said in a statement.
Police said they did not yet have enough information to confirm whether the two gun attacks, which come just weeks after a series of bloody Islamist attacks in Paris that left 17 people dead, were connected.
Danish Prime Minister Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt described the assault on the free speech seminar as “a terrorist attack,” while the United States branded it “deplorable.”
Tight security in Copenhagen
Police spokesman Allan Teddy Wadsworth-Hansen had declined to say earlier on Sunday whether detectives were looking for the same gunman for both attacks.
“We simply don’t know that and it’s too early to comment on at the moment,” he told a press conference.
He confirmed that the person killed in the second incident had been immediately outside the synagogue.
Michael Gelvan, chairman of the Nordic Jewish Security Council, told Agence France-Presse the victim was a young Jewish man who had been providing security for a ceremony at the temple.
Danish police had released a photo of the suspect in the cultural center attack, wearing a dark jacket and a maroon balaclava and carrying a black bag.
They described him as 25-30 years old and around 1.85 meters [six feet]tall, with an athletic build.
Police said the gunman who fled the scene of the second shooting had been wearing black trousers, black shoes and a light grey jacket with “multi-colored” parts.
The central area of Copenhagen that is home to both the synagogue and Noerreport station, the country’s busiest rail hub, was cordoned off by police carrying machine guns. People living in the area were turned away.
Swedish security services told AFP they were on alert for any attempt by a suspect to cross the bridge linking Denmark with Sweden.
The windows of the cultural center were pockmarked by multiple bullet holes, and the BBC released chilling audio of the moment a speaker at the event was interrupted by a volley of gunshots.
France’s ambassador to Denmark Francois Zimeray, who was present at the debate but was not hurt, told AFP the shooting was an attempt to replicate the January 7 attack on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris which killed 12 people.
“They shot from the outside [and]had the same intention as Charlie Hebdo, only they didn’t manage to get in,” he said.
“Intuitively I would say there were at least 50 gunshots, and the police here are saying 200,” he said.
Charlie Hebdo had, like Vilks, angered Islamist extremists by publishing cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammed and periodically satirizing Islam.
“Everything leads us to believe that the shooting was a political attack and therefore a terrorist act,” the Danish premier said in a statement.