Danish police say they have identified the man they believe to be behind two shootings in the capital in the past 24 hours. They believe last month’s Charlie Hebdo massacre in France could have inspired him.
Police have identified the slain gunman suspected of killing two people in a double shooting outside a synagogue and at a free speech debate in Copenhagen as a 22-year-old Danish-born Muslim man with a criminal record and history of gang-related offenses.
Authorities have so far refused to make the name of the suspect public. But Danish broadcaster DR Nyheder said the gunman’s name was Omar El-Hussein. The man was reportedly released from prison just two weeks ago.
According to Ekstra Bladet daily, El-Hussein was already known to police after he stabbed a man several times in the leg in 2013. A little over a year later, he was given a jail sentence for aggravated assault.
Police meanwhile said they found an automatic weapon which may have been the one used in the attack at the free speech event. The man is believed to have acted alone.
The motivations of the killer are not yet entirely clear. However, Jens Madsen, a representative from the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) said that the gunman “may have been inspired by the events that took place in Paris a few weeks ago.”
On January 7 Islamists attacked the office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo known for its controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The assailants said they “revenged their Prophet.” Later a kosher shop came under an attack. A total of 17 people were killed.
The suspect reportedly opened fire on police officers before they shot him during a manhunt in central Copenhagen close to the area where the attacks took place. Two civilians were killed and five police wounded in the shootings.
Though Danish Security forces and Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt have characterized the incident as an act of terror, a police spokesperson has said that currently, police have no “concrete knowledge about him travelling to conflict zones including Syria, Iraq,” but they are investigating this further.
According to media reports, police have been detaining people throughout the Danish capital.
As part of the expanded operation to track down possible accomplices, police raided an internet cafe on Sunday. Danish TV reported that at least two people were detained during the raid.
Saturday one man died after a gunman fired 40 rounds at a café where a free speech debate was being held. Controversial Swedish artist Lars Vilks was in attendance, but was unharmed.
Vilks has lived with heavy security after his cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a dog were published in 2007. When in Denmark, the 68-year-old artist travels with a police escort. Security experts and Thorning-Schmidt have said that the attack was an assassination attempt on the cartoonist.
The French ambassador to Denmark Francois Zimeray was also at the event entitled “Art, Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression.”
Hours after the first attack, a security guard was shot and killed outside of a synagogue about a half an hour walk from the cafe.
Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said that the government would do “everything we can to protect the Jewish community in our country,” after laying flowers at a memorial outside the synagogue.
“We’ve tasted the ugly taste of fear and impotence that terror wants to create,” Thorning-Schmidt said. “But as a society, we have answered back.”
The government is expected to allocate additional funding to boththe police and the PET, The Danish Security and Intelligence Service, as well increasing police patrols in Copenhagen in the wake of Saturday’s attack.
Saturday evening, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a call for Jewish immigration to Israel, echoing his words after the terrorist attacks last month in France which left 17 dead, including four at a kosher grocery store.
“Jews were killed on European land just because they were Jewish. This wave of attacks will continue. I say to the Jews of Europe – Israel is your home,” he said.
Denmark’s chief rabbi Jair Melchior responded on Sunday that he was “disappointed” in the invitation, saying that “Terror is not a reason to move to Israel.”
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