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Copenhagen Shootings: Police Kill Suspected Gunman Behind Two Deadly Attacks

Danish police shot and killed a man early Sunday morning who they believe committed the attacks on a synagogue and free speech event that left two people dead and five wounded.

by Olivia Becker
Feb 15 2015, 2:00pm

Photo via AP/Polfoto, Kenneth Meyer

Danish police shot and killed a man early Sunday morning near Copenhagen's Norrebro Station. Police have not released any information about the man, except to say that he is believed to be the gunman behind the two deadly attacks at a synagogue and free speech event. The man reportedly arrived at a building under police surveillance and opened fire when the cops identified themselves. No officers were injured.

Earlier Sunday, at around 1am, three people were shot — one fatally — at a synagogue in central Copenhagen. The attack occurred just hours after another shooting Saturday that left one person dead and three police officers wounded.

In the synagogue attack, one person was shot in the head and two police officers were wounded in the arms and legs, according to the Associated Press. The victim was reportedly a 37-year-old security guard stationed at building behind the synagogue during a bat mitzvah.

In the Saturday attack, a gunman opened fire at around 4pm at a cafe hosting a discussion about cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad and blasphemy, wounding three police officers and killing one civilian. France's ambassador to Denmark and a prominent Swedish cartoonist who has published controversial Muhammad cartoons were at the event. They were both unharmed.

Police suspect the gunman was inspired by last month's attacks on French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, a spokesman told Reuters. According to reports in Danish media, the gunman was described as being about six feet tall, in his mid-twenties, and of Arabic descent.

In a statement shortly after the first shooting, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said "everything indicates that the shooting… was a political assassination and thus a terrorist attack." Denmark's Security and Intelligence Service (PET) reiterated that statement, saying the details of the shooting "indicate that we are talking about a terror attack."

The shooter fled the scene of the first attack in a stolen Volkswagen Polo that was later found empty. Initially, the police were looking for two suspects, but said later that "preliminary interviews indicate there was only one perpetrator," according to the AP.

Police released a blurry image captured from a security camera of the person they believe to be the shooter, wearing dark clothing and a scarf partially covering his face. 

 A photo from the scene shows bullet holes in the door of the cafe where event was being held.  

(Photo via Twitter/Magnus Bjerg)

The French ambassador, François Zimeray, tweeted shortly after the shooting that he was alive.

Danish police said the gunman fired about 30 rounds.

"I heard someone firing with an automatic weapons and someone shouting. Police returned the fire and I hid behind the bar. I felt surreal, like in a movie," Niels Ivar Larsen, a panelist at the event, told TV2, a local Danish  channel.

A chilling audio recording obtained by the BBC purportedly captures the moment of the shooting, in which a panel member is interrupted by a volley of gunshots in rapid succession. 

"I saw a masked man running past," Helle Merete Brix, an organizer of the event, told the Associated Press. "I clearly consider this as an attack on Lars Vilks."

Watch the VICE News exclusive interview with 'Charlie Hebdo' cartoonist Luz.

The cartoonist, Lars Vilks, is known for his drawings of the Prophet Mohammed, including a cartoon depicting the Prophet as a dog in 2007. He has received repeated death threats and had been on a list of assassination targets issued by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. 

Inna Shevchenko, leader of Ukrainian feminist group FEMEN, was also reportedly taking part in the event.

The event was titled "Art, blasphemy and the freedom of expression." According to the description on Vilks' website, the event was intended to mark the 25-year anniversary of the Islamic fatwa declared on novelist Salman Rushdie by Ayatollah Khomeini, the spiritual leader of Iran at the time.

The motives of the shooter are not yet known, but the attack immediately drew comparisons to the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris last month. Stéphane Charbonnier, the editor of the magazine who was killed in the attacks last month, was on the same assassination list as Vilks. In a statement following news Saturday's shooting, French Prime Minister Francois Hollande called the incident "deplorable" and offered Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt the "full solidarity of France in this trial."

Vilks told the AP that he has been traveling with bodyguards and increased security since the Paris attacks.

Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @obecker928