Two shot dead at US Muhammad cartoon event
Police shot dead two gunmen outside a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Texas on Sunday. The event was attended by controversial Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders, authorities said.
While no immediate claim of responsibility was made, similar depictions of the Prophet Muhammad prompted a shooting at French satirical weekly "Charlie Hebdo" in January, killing 12 people.
US authorities are investigating the shooting and police said it was still unclear if the attack was related to the event. The right-wing American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) organised the event in a suburb of Dallas, featuring Wilders, who has been outspoken against Muslims and is targeted by radical groups.
Police said that two men drove up to the conference centre in Garland, Texas, and began shooting at a security guard. "Garland Police officers engaged the gunmen, who were both shot and killed," the city of Garland said in a statement. The security guard was shot in the ankle and was treated at a hospital and released, the city said.
Local police said the shootout lasted "seconds", and organisers said they had prepared extra security for the event due to the general risk of an attack.
Wilders has also long been targeted by Islamists because of his extreme views on Islam. "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," said Wilders. "This is an attack on the liberties of all of us!" he said, adding: "I hope it is not connected to death list (of) al-Qaida."
Many Muslims find depictions of the Prophet Muhammad offensive, and such cartoons have triggered violent protests. The Danish daily "Jyllands-Posten" published 12 satirical cartoons in 2005, triggering deadly protests in some Muslim countries. Cartoon images of the Prophet Muhammad were also published in French satirical weekly "Charlie Hebdo", where Islamist gunmen killed 12 people in January.
The identities of Sunday's shooters has yet to be confirmed, but the SITE Intelligence Group reported that an Islamic State (IS) fighter claimed on Twitter that the shooting was carried out by two pro-IS individuals. (AFP)