Copenhagen 'gunman' killed by police
POLICE shot and killed a man yesterday who they believe was responsible for two fatal attacks that shocked the normally peaceful Danish capital.
Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt described the killings, which bore similarities to the massacre in Paris last month by Islamic extremists, as "a cynical act of terror".
The man believed to be behind the assaults was shot dead after he opened fire on police officers near a rail station, a spokesman said.
It came after a 55-year-old man was killed during a panel discussion at a cultural centre about Islam and free speech on Saturday, attended by the Swedish cartoonist behind controversial caricatures of Prophet Muhammad.
In the second attack, a young Jewish man was killed outside Copenhagen's main synagogue early yesterday. Five police officers were wounded in the two attacks.
The killing of the suspected perpetrator capped a massive police manhunt launched after the gunman fled the scene following both shootings.
"We believe the same man was behind both shootings and we also believe that the perpetrator who was shot by the police action force at Noerrebro station is the person behind the two attacks," senior police official Torben Moelgaard Jensen said at a press conference.
The first lethal attacks on Danish soil in decades were branded "deplorable" by the United States and triggered condemnation around the world.
The police said video surveillance had led them to believe that the man killed by armed police officers was behind both attacks, but added that they were still investigating whether he had acted alone.
"We have tried the ugly taste of fear and powerlessness which terror hopes to create," Ms Thorning-Schmidt said at a briefing, saying Denmark was experiencing "a day of sorrow".
"We will defend our democracy and we will defend Denmark at any time," she said.
Witnesses at the panel discussion said a speaker had barely finished an introduction to the meeting when up to 40 shots rang out outside the venue, as an attacker tried to shoot inside. The police said they considered Lars Vilks, the main speaker, to have been the target.
Police officers at the heavily guarded venue fired back at the attacker. Mr Vilks was taken to a cold storage room at the back for protection.
The shooting of the suspect came at the end of a night of fear that had gripped the city of about one million, which had been spared major attacks in recent years. The central area of Copenhagen - home to both the synagogue and Noerreport station, the country's busiest rail hub - was cordoned off by police officers carrying machine guns.
Helle Merete Brix, organiser of the event at the cultural centre, told Reuters she had seen an attacker wearing a mask.
"The security guards shouted 'Everyone get out!' and we were being pushed out of the room," Ms Brix said.
"They tried to shoot their way into the conference room... I saw one of them running by, wearing a mask. There was no way to tell his face."
France's Ambassador to Denmark, Francois Zimeray, who was present at the event but was unhurt, told Agence France-Presse that the shooting was an attempt to replicate the Jan 7 attack on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris.
"They shot from the outside (and) had the same intention as (those at) Charlie Hebdo, only they didn't manage to get in," he said.
Charlie Hebdo has, like Mr Vilks, angered Islamist extremists by publishing cartoons mocking the Prophet and frequently satirises Islam.
The shootings in Copenhagen show that even a city on alert remains vulnerable to terrorist attacks, said Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday morning.
"You can see that even in a city on high alert, it is very difficult to stop all attacks, because all it needs is one person," he said on the sidelines of a community event in Pasir Ris.
Mr Teo, who is also Home Affairs Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security, added that the community must stay united in the face of such attacks to prevent terrorism from achieving its goals.
"Terrorists want to achieve two things: to terrorise people so that they can't continue with their daily lives, and to split communities."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE STRAITS TIMES