Swedish cartoonist with $ 100,000 Al Qaeda bounty dies in car crash
Swedish artist Lars Vilks died in a traffic accident on Sunday, Swedish police confirmed.
The artist had been living under police protection since his 2007 sketch of the Prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog earned him death threats.
The accident allegedly involved a truck colliding with a civilian police car in which Lars Vilks and his police protection were traveling, according to local media.
Swedish police speaking to CBS News on Monday confirmed reports that Vilks, 75, was killed in the crash while in custody.
Dagens Nyheter newspaper said the artist’s partner also confirmed his death.
The cause of the accident is under investigation.
Mr. Vilks was largely unknown outside of Sweden before his drawing of Muhammad. At home, he was best known for building a driftwood sculpture in a nature reserve in southern Sweden without permission, sparking a long legal battle.
He was fined, but the seaside sculpture – a jumble of wood nailed together chaotically – attracts tens of thousands of visitors a year.
Mr. Vilks’ life changed dramatically 13 years ago after he sketched the Prophet with a dog’s body. Dogs are considered unclean by conservative Muslims, and Islamic law generally opposes any portrayal of the prophet, even favorable, lest it lead to idolatry.
Al-Qaeda put a price on Mr Vilks’ head, and in 2010 two men attempted to burn down his house in southern Sweden.
Last year, a Pennsylvania woman pleaded guilty to a plot to attempt to kill him.
Bjorn Wiman, artistic editor of the newspaper Dagens Nyheter, called Mr Vilks’ death a “total shock”.
“Lars Vilks has lived for over 10 years with constant death threats, with bodyguards, like a prisoner in his own home, and has received death threats from one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the world.
“And then he died in a traffic accident on a highway in Smaland. Unbelievable.
“I think Lars Vilks will make history – and he would have done it anyway – but he will do it even more now as the most important Swedish artist of the early 2000s.
“I hope the Swedish cultural establishment will learn a lesson from this – that when people are threatened, it is our duty and our duty to protect them,” Wiman said.