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    May 05, 2015

    2 gunmen killed at Prophet art event in US


    POLICE shot dead two men who opened fire outside an exhibit of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad organised by an anti-Islamic group and billed as a free-speech event.

    Sunday's shooting in a Dallas suburb echoed past attacks in other Western countries against art depicting the Prophet. In January, gunmen killed 12 people in the Paris offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in revenge for its cartoons.

    Dutch politician Geert Wilders, an anti-Islamic campaigner who is on an Al-Qaeda hit list, was a speaker at the event.

    The shooting took place at about 7pm outside the Curtis Culwell Centre, an indoor arena in Garland, north-east of Dallas.

    The two suspects drove up to the building as the event was ending and opened fire with automatic rifles at an unarmed security officer, hitting him in the leg, the police and city officials said.

    Police officers who were assisting with security returned fire, killing both suspects, police spokesman Joe Harn said. As a precaution, the immediate area was evacuated and the duo's vehicle checked for explosives, he added.

    The identities of the gunmen have yet to be confirmed, but according to the Site Intelligence Group, an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis) fighter claimed on Twitter that the shooting was carried out by two pro-ISIS individuals.

    In a series of tweets, an extremist named Abu Hussain Al-Britani, who Site said was British ISIS fighter Junaid Hussain, claimed that "two of our brothers just opened fire" at the exhibition in Texas.

    The event was organised by Pamela Geller, president of the right-wing American Freedom Defence Initiative (AFDI), who said it was to promote freedom of expression. AFDI offered US$10,000 (S$13,300) for the best work of art or cartoon depicting the Prophet, as well as a US$2,500 "People's Choice Award".

    Depictions of Prophet Mohammad are viewed as offensive in Islam, and Western art that portrays the Prophet has sometimes angered Muslims and provoked threats and attacks from radicals.

    On why the city had permitted the event, Garland Mayor Douglas Athas said: "There was concern, which is why we had heightened security in the area, but we all swear to uphold the Constitution: free speech, free assembly and, in this case perhaps, free religion."