Swedish Caricature Artist Known for Muhammad Caricatures Passes Away in a Car Crash.
Since 2010, when his sketch drew enormous outrage from Muslims, the artist, Lars Vilks, has been under police protection. He was slain, along with two bodyguards, in an accident, according to the authorities.
Lars Vilks, an artist and free speech campaigner who became the target of many assassination attempts in 2007 after depicting the Prophet Muhammad on the corpse of a dog, was died in a car crash in Sweden on Sunday, police said.
Mr. Vilks, 75, had been protected by police since 2010, when the civilian police vehicle in which he was traveling went across the median and struck head-on with a truck, police said. Mr. Vilks and his two bodyguards were killed in the collision.
The truck driver sustained critical injuries and was airlifted to a hospital.
“We are investigating the likelihood that there was a tire explosion,” regional police chief Stefan Sinteus stated during a Monday news conference. “At this point, there is no evidence that this was an assassination.”
Mr. Sinteus stated that the two police officers killed in the crash had previously worked with Mr. Vilks.
The collision occurred on a four-lane highway in Markaryd, about 300 kilometers southwest of Stockholm.
Many Muslims regard portrayals of Muhammad as blasphemous, and cartoons such as Mr. Vilks's have sparked significant outrage over the years. In 2005, a Danish newspaper published a cartoon of Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban, sparking violent Muslim riots.
Islamic extremists invaded the Paris office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015, killing 12 people.
Mr. Vilks' black-and-white drawing was published in a regional newspaper in Sweden in 2007 and was condemned by local Muslims and the Body of the Islamic Conference, an umbrella organization of 57 Muslim-majority countries.
Mr. Vilks received repeated death threats, and an Al Qaeda-linked gang posted a $100,000 premium on his head, compelling him to relocate temporarily to a covert location.
Mr. Vilks received numerous threats following the publication of the caricature.
He was assaulted in 2010 while delivering a lecture on free speech at Sweden's Uppsala University. Two brothers were also arrested that year for attempting to set fire to his residence. Separately, a suicide bomber wrote notes to various Swedish news organizations specifically targeting Mr. Vilks before detonating two explosives in central Stockholm and killing himself.
In 2015, a shooter assaulted a cafe in Copenhagen where Mr. Vilks was speaking at an event titled "Art, Blasphemy, and Freedom of Expression," killing one videographer and injuring three others. Helle Merete Brix, one of the event's organizers, stated that she felt Mr. Vilks was the intended target, despite the fact that he was unharmed in the shooting. The police later stated that they shot and killed a guy they believed was responsible for the cafe attack and another incident at a synagogue that killed one person.
Mr. Vilks traveled with armed bodyguards following the attacks, according to The Associated Press. “It's like if I'm beginning a new life,” he explained. “Everything is different now. I must accept that I am unable to return home. I'm going to have to locate another place to live.”
Despite insulting Muslims and receiving death threats, Mr. Vilks stated that he had no remorse over the cartoon. Mr. Vilks told The Associated Press in 2010 that he was not interested in insulting the prophet. “The objective is to demonstrate that you can. Nothing is so sacred that it cannot be offended.”