COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A gunman tried to shoot a Danish writer and prominent critic of Islam on Tuesday, but missed and fled after a scuffle with his intended victim, police and the writer said.
Lars Hedegaard, who heads a group that claims press freedom is under threat from Islam, told The Associated Press he was shaken but not physically injured in the attack at his Copenhagen home.
Police were searching for the suspect, whom they described as a “foreign” man aged 20-25.
Hedegaard, 70, said the gunman rang the doorbell of his apartment building on the pretext of delivering a package, and when Hedegaard opened the front door, the man pulled out a gun and fired a shot that narrowly missed the writer’s head.
“The bullet flew past my right ear, after which I attacked him and punched him in the face, which made him lose the gun,” Hedegaard told AP. He said the gunman then fled.
Hedegaard heads the Free Press Society in Denmark and its international offshoot, the International Free Press Society. He is also among the publishers of a weekly anti-Islam newsletter.
In 2011, he was convicted of hate speech and fined 5,000 kroner ($1,000) for making a series of insulting and degrading statements about Muslims.
The motive of Tuesday’s attack was not immediately clear.
Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt condemned it as a “despicable” act.
“It is even worse if the attack is rooted in an attempt to prevent Lars Hedegaard to use his freedom of expression,” she said.
Hedegaard has expressed support for a range of outspoken Islam critics in Europe, including Swedish artist Lars Vilks and Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders.
“Failed attack on my friend and Islam critic Lars Hedegaard in Denmark this morning. My thoughts are with him. Terrible,” Wilders tweeted.
The Free Press Society said it was “shaken and angry” over the attack, but “relieved that the perpetrator did not succeed.”
Several Scandinavian writers, artists and journalists have been exposed to threats and violence from extremists since the 2005 publication of Danish newspaper cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad triggered an uproar in Muslim countries.
Many Muslims believe the prophet should not be depicted at all — even in a flattering way — because it might encourage idolatry
In 2010, a Somali man living in Denmark used an ax to break into the home of one of the cartoonists, who escaped unharmed by locking himself into a panic room.
Last year, four Swedish residents were convicted of terrorism in Denmark for plotting a shooting spree at the newspaper that first published the Muhammad caricatures.
In Sweden, Vilks has lived under police protection after a drawing he made depicting Muhammad as a dog led to death threats from militant Islamists.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.