Swedish Cartoonist Who Depicted Muhammad With Dog’s Body Dies in Car Crash

An investigation is underway after Lars Vilks died when the police car he was travelling in collided with a truck in southern Sweden, also killing two protection officers.
Swedish artist Lars Vilks.
Swedish artist Lars Vilks. Photo: BJORN LINDGREN/TT NEWS AGENCY/AFP via Getty Images

Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who had been living under police protection after drawing the Prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog in 2007, was killed in a car crash in the south of the country on Sunday, police said.

The 75-year-old, along with two police protection officers he was travelling with, were killed when their vehicle collided with a truck near the southern town of Markaryd, bursting into flames.

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Swedish police said in a statement on Monday that though they were still establishing the cause of the accident, there is no suspicion of foul play.

“This is a very tragic incident. It is now important to all of us that we do everything we can to investigate what happened and what caused the collision,” the statement said, adding that the driver of the truck was being treated in hospital.

Police did not name Vilks as one of the casualties, but the artist's partner confirmed his death to Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

Swedish media reported that Vilks’ vehicle was travelling at high speed, with one witness telling the Aftonbladet newspaper that the car appeared to lose control.

Vilks created an international controversy in 2007 after he drew a series of sketches of the Prophet Muhammad depicting him as a dog. They generated outrage across the Muslim world after one was printed in a Swedish newspaper, eventually resulting in Vilks being placed under police protection.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt met with ambassadors from 22 Muslim countries to try to de-escalate the situation, which came a year after the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy in Denmark, while an al Qaeda affiliate put a $100,000 bounty on Vilks’ head.

In 2010, Swedish newspapers reprinted the cartoon after two men were charged in the Republic of Ireland over a plot to kill Vilks, while in 2013, an American extremist known as “Jihad Jane” was sentenced to 10 years in prison for plotting to kill him.

And in 2015, Vilks was caught up in a terror attack on a free-speech cafe in Copenhagen, where an Islamist gunman killed a film director and wounded three police officers, before killing a volunteer at a synagogue. Vilks believed he was probably the target of that attack.