Cartoonist Lars Vilks, who became world famous in 2007 for having caricatured the prophet Mohammed’s head attached to a dog’s body, died this Sunday after a car crash in the town of Markaryd on Sunday.
Vilks, 75, had been living under police protection since the day his drawings were published and was traveling in a police car when it collided with a van. The two agents carrying the car also died.
“This was a very tragic incident. It’s very important for everyone that we can do the full investigation into what really happened in this collision,” a police representative said Monday. “Initially, nothing points to more people involved.”
In 2015, Vilks’ influence was a central part of the terrorist attack on the city of Copenhagen. The cartoonist was the keynote speaker at a free speech event inside a cafe where an Islamic sniper opened fire, resulting in the death of a film director and the injury of three police officers. An attack that took place before the terrorist went to a synagogue and killed a volunteer.
In a first reaction, the head of the national police, Anders Thornberg, said: “It was with dismay and great sadness that I received the news that two colleagues and the person we wanted to protect died this afternoon. My thoughts are with family, friends and co-workers”.
Stefan Sintéus, head of the regional investigation unit responsible for personal protection in the region, said this is an extremely tragic event.
It is now important for all of us to do everything in our power to find out what happened at the scene and what caused the collision.”, he stated.
Vilks was virtually unknown outside Sweden before the controversial caricature. At home, he was best known for building a floating wood sculpture inside a nature reserve in southern Sweden without permission, triggering a long legal battle.
He was fined, but the sculpture by the sea – a chaotically nailed heap of wood – attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year.
In September 2007, Vilks had a bounty of around €80,000 placed in his name by an al Qaeda faction in Iraq in response to his designs.