Swedish Cartoonist Lar Vilks sent into hiding after Copenhagen attacks

Controversial Swedish artist Lars Vilks is seen in Nyhamnslage January 3, 2012. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Controversial Swedish artist Lars Vilks is seen in Nyhamnslage January 3, 2012. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

STOCKHOLM (AFP) - A Swedish cartoonist believed to have been targeted in one of the Copenhagen shootings at the weekend has been sent into hiding, police said Monday.

Lars Vilks - who has faced several death threats since his cartoon portraying the Prophet Mohammed as a dog was published in a Swedish newspaper in 2007 - already lives under constant police protection.

But police spokeswoman Ewa-Gun Westford said that Vilks' home in Hoeganaes, southern Sweden, "is not a safe place. And he needs to be in a safe place".

The move comes after the 68-year-old emerged unharmed when a gunman fired off dozens of rounds at a cultural centre hosting a forum on Islam and free speech on Saturday.

Vilks, whose security detail was at the event, escaped into the kitchen as the shots rang out.

"The attack seemed to be directed at him. Regardless, the security assessment is that he cannot be in his home," Westford said.

A 55-year-old documentary filmmaker, Finn Noergaard, was killed in the assault.

The gunman, identified in the media as a Danish-born man of Palestinian origin, moved on from the cultural centre to Copenhagen's main synagogue where he killed a Jewish man guarding the building.

Residents in Vilks' hometown had expressed concern following Saturday's shootings about the risk of an attack against his residence.

Vilks - a frequent speaker at international events on Islam and free speech - will remain at an undisclosed location until further notice.

"It's been a tragic event but I am not affected personally by it," Vilks told Swedish Radio on Monday. "It's become routine."

Vilks has survived a foiled assassination plot and other attacks since his cartoon was published in a local Swedish paper in 2007 along with an editorial on the importance of freedom of expression.