Seven Muslims arrested in Ireland over plot to kill Swedish cartoonist who drew Mohammed with the body of a dog
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 4:44 PM on 09th March 2010
*Controversial: Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks sparked fury in the Muslim world when he depicted the Prophet Mohammed with the body of a dog
Seven Muslims were arrested in Ireland today over an alleged plot to assassinate a Swedish cartoonist who depicted the Prophet Mohammed with the body of a dog.
Al Qaeda put a $100,000 bounty on the head of cartoonist Lars Vilks after a newspaper published his cartoon in July 2007.
The controversy came less than a year after the furore surrounding the infamous cartoons in a Danish newspaper which sparked death threats against the editor and worldwide protests.
The four men and three women were detained after an investigation involving European security agencies and the United States' CIA and FBI.
It is understood that some of those arrested hold Irish citizenship and a number are originally from the Middle East.
They were detained by police in Waterford and Cork in the south of the country for conspiracy to murder Mr Vilks.
The men and women arrested range in age from mid-20s to late 40s and can be held for up to seven days.
Mr Vilks, who lives in an isolated area of Sweden, was put under police protection after threats were made against his life.
When Al Qaeda put the bounty on the cartoonist's head in 2007 it offered a 50 per cent bonus if Mr Vilks was 'slaughtered like a lamb' by having his throat cut.
Another $50,000 was put on the life of Ulf Johansson, editor-in-chief of Nerikes Allehanda, the local newspaper which printed the cartoon.
The Swedish paper had orginally printed the cartoons after they had been banned from being put in display by art galleries for fear of causing offence.
The paper defended its publication of the cartoon, saying it was in defence of free speech.
'This is unacceptable self-censorship,' the newspaper wrote in an editorial referring to the reluctance by galleries to exhibit Vilks's drawings.
'The right to freedom of religion and the right to blaspheme religions go together,' it wrote.
However those arrested are not believed to be members of the terrorist group.
It understood some have converted to the Muslim faith.The arrests were made at around 10am as officers conducted a number of raids.
Gardai said the operation was supported by members from National Support Services and the Republic's anti-terrorist Special Detective Unit.
A Garda spokesman added: 'Throughout the investigation An Garda Siochana has been working closely with law enforcement agencies in the United States and in a number of European countries.'
Iran summoned a Swedish diplomat to complain about publication of the cartoon, saying it was 'an insult against the prophet'.
And Pakistan issued an angry statement over the sketch.
'Regrettably, the tendency among some Europeans to mix the freedom of expression with an outright and deliberate insult to 1.3 billion Muslims in the world is on the rise," the ministry said in the statement.
'Such acts deeply undermine the efforts of those who seek to promote respect and understanding among religions and civilisations,' it said.