Dutch far-right politician 'shocked' by shooting at Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest

This April 30, 2015 file photo shows Dutch Member of Parliament Geert Wilders speaking during a press conference on Capitol Hill April in Washington, DC. -- PHOTO: AFP
This April 30, 2015 file photo shows Dutch Member of Parliament Geert Wilders speaking during a press conference on Capitol Hill April in Washington, DC. -- PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders said on Sunday he was "shocked" by the shooting outside a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Texas that he attended.

"I am shocked. I just spoke for half an hour about the cartoons, Islam and freedom of speech and I had just left the premises," he said in an e-mail to AFP, adding that the shooting was an attack on "liberties".

Two suspects who may have been carrying bombs were shot dead and a police officer was wounded, organisers said.

The American Freedom Defence Initiative (AFDI) organised 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.

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

SWAT officials told ABC television news affiliate WFAA that the two male suspects drove up and opened fire on the Curtis Culwell Centre in Garland, near Dallas, which was hosting the exhibit and cartoon contest billed as a "free speech" event.

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.

Police were searching the area for a vehicle containing explosives.

A local police-themed blog that posts information coming from public scanner radio said a suspect had been spotted at a nearby store with a hand grenade, and that the expo center and surrounding businesses were evacuated.

"There are multiple reports that two explosives have been placed in the area of Curtis Caldwell Center," the Rowlett/Sachse Scanner wrote on its Facebook page.

AFDI offered a US$10,000 (S$13,200) prize for the winner of the cartoon contest.

Ms 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."

Caricatures of Prophet Muhammad have triggered violent protests, including when the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten published 12 satirical cartoons in 2005, triggering deadly protests in some Muslim countries.

The cartoons were also published in French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, where gunmen killed 12 people in January.