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Two gunmen killed outside Muhammad cartoon contest

Attackers open fire at security guard outside controversial contest in Garland, Texas, are shot by police

People are sequestered by members of the Garland Police Department inside the Curtis Culwell Center, Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Garland, Texas. A contest for cartoons depictions of the Prophet Muhammad in the Dallas suburb is on lockdown Sunday after authorities reported a shooting outside the building. (photo credit: AP/Nomaan Merchant)
People are sequestered by members of the Garland Police Department inside the Curtis Culwell Center, Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Garland, Texas. A contest for cartoons depictions of the Prophet Muhammad in the Dallas suburb is on lockdown Sunday after authorities reported a shooting outside the building. (photo credit: AP/Nomaan Merchant)

Authorities in a Dallas suburb said Sunday that two armed men who opened fire on a security officer outside of a contest for cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad have been killed.

The city of Garland said in a statement posted on its Facebook page Sunday night that two men drove up to the Curtis Culwell Center and began shooting at a security officer. The police officer was shot in the leg and was rushed to hospital, where he was expected to recover, according to local CBS news affiliate DFW.

The statement said Garland Police Department officers engaged the gunmen, who were both shot and killed.

The statement didn’t say whether the shooting was related to the event.

The statement said the gunmen’s vehicle may contain an “incendiary device.” A bomb squad was on scene.

Police told a local NBC station that two men drove near the building and began shooting. The two suspects possibly had explosives on them, SWAT officials told a local ABC news outlet.

The New York-based American Freedom Defense Initiative was hosting a contest that would award $10,000 for the best cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad at the venue. The group organized the event featuring far-right populist Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who has been outspoken against Muslims.

“#garlandshooting cop shot – two suspects dead, awaiting bomb squad for possible explosives at our free speech event #sharia,” political activist and AFDI co-founder Pamela Geller wrote on Twitter.

AFDI co-founder and political activist Pamela Geller called the shootings a “war on free speech.”

“What are we going to do? Are we going to surrender to these monsters?” she wrote on her website. “The war is here.”

Wilders also commented on the incident, saying: “Shots fired at Garland Mohammed cartoon free speech event. I just left the building after speeching. #garlandshooting.”

About 75 attendees were taken to another room. Later, a group of 48 people were escorted to a school bus. Authorities told attendees they would be taken to a nearby high school. A second group was set to be moved shortly after.

Johnny Roby of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was attending the conference. He told the AP he was outside the building when he heard around about 20 shots that appeared to be coming from the direction of a car passing by.

Roby said he then heard two single shots.

He said he heard officers yell that they had the car before he was sent inside the building.

Such drawings are deemed insulting to many followers of Islam and have sparked violence around the world. According to mainstream Islamic tradition, any physical depiction of the Prophet Muhammad — even a respectful one — is considered blasphemous.

In January, 12 people were killed by gunmen in an attack against the Paris office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which had lampooned Islam and other religions and used depictions of Muhammad.

Pamela Geller, president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, said that she planned the Sunday event to make a stand for free speech in response to the outcries and violence over drawings of Muhammad.

Geller’s group is known for mounting a campaign against the building of an Islamic center blocks from the World Trade Center site and for buying advertising space in cities across the US criticizing Islam.

The group did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment late Sunday.

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