US police have shot dead two armed assailants outside a Prophet Mohammed cartoon contest in Texas put on by a group that has a history of sparking controversy with its statements on Islam.
While no confirmed claim of responsibility for the attack on Sunday was made, similar depictions of the Prophet Mohammed prompted a shooting at French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in January that killed 12 people.
US authorities are investigating the shooting and police said it was still unclear if the attack was related to the event.
A White House official said US President Barack Obama was briefed on the situation in Texas.
The right-wing American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) organized the event in a suburb of Dallas. It featured far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who has been outspoken against Muslims and is targeted by radical groups.
Police said two men drove up to the conference center in Garland, Texas, “exited a vehicle and began shooting” at a security guard.
“Garland Police officers engaged the gunmen, who were both shot and killed,” city authorities said in a statement.
The security guard was shot in the ankle, treated at a hospital and released, the city said.
Local police said the shoot-out lasted “seconds,” while organizers said they had prepared extra security for the event due to the general risk of an attack.
Wilders has long been targeted by extremists 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,” Wilder said in an e-mail.
“This is an attack on the liberties of all of us!” Wilders added. “I hope it is not connected to [the] death list [of] al-Qaeda.”
He added that he was safe with police.
Wilders said that he would return to the Netherlands yesterday, but would return to the US next week for another speaking engagement.
Many Muslims find depictions of the Prophet Mohammed offensive and such cartoons have triggered violent protests.
The identities of Sunday’s shooters have yet to be confirmed, but the SITE Intelligence Group reported that an Islamic State fighter said on Twitter that the shooting was carried out by two Islamic State supporters.
In a series of tweets, a militant Abu Hussain AlBritani, who SITE said was British Islamic State fighter Junaid Hussain, said: “2 of our brothers just opened fire” at the Prophet Mohammed exhibition in Texas.
A Twitter account that might have been used by one of the shooters appeared to mention the attack before it occurred. The account was later suspended by Twitter.
About 200 people were inside the event, local police spokesman Joe Harn said.
He said the first suspect was shot dead immediately, while the second was shot after reaching for his backpack.
Police said they thought that the assailants’ vehicle could contain an “incendiary device” and a bomb squad was at the scene.
A hotel in the suburban area was evacuated and nearby roads were closed off, local residents said.
AFDI, criticized for promoting anti-Islamic views, offered a US$10,000 prize for the winner of the cartoon contest that was billed as a “free speech” event.
AFDI cofounder and political activist Pamela 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 Web site.
A Taiwanese YouTuber suspected of creating and selling deepfake porn videos featuring more than 100 politicians and influencers was on Monday released on bail after being arrested the previous day. Chu Yu-chen (朱玉宸), 26, who uses the name Xiaoyu (小玉) on YouTube, was arrested on Sunday in New Taipei City, along with two suspected accomplices, a 24-year-old YouTuber surnamed Yeh (耶), known as Shaiw Shaiw (笑笑), and a 22-year-old man Chuang (莊). The three suspects were on Monday escorted to the New Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office for further questioning on suspicion of distributing obscene videos and publicly insulting others, in contravention of
FAMILY: While the CECC agrees ‘in principle’ to allowing entry to foreign spouses and children of foreigners in Taiwan with a residence permit, the issue is still being reviewed A nationwide level 2 COVID-19 alert is to be extended for two weeks until Nov. 1, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday, adding that agencies are still discussing whether to allow foreign spouses and children of foreigners in Taiwan with a residence permit to enter the nation. “In principle we agree to relaxing the entry regulations for the group, but relevant agencies are still reviewing and discussing the matter,” said Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center. The center on Sept. 13 eased border restrictions for foreign dependents of Taiwanese nationals. They can apply
ANTI-COERCION: EU Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager said the EU wishes to bolster relations with Taiwan within the framework of its ‘one China’ policy The EU is to further its engagement with Taiwan to defend democracy, freedom and an open market, while bolstering cooperation in semiconductor supply chains, EU Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager said on Tuesday. In her remarks at a European Parliament plenary session focused on Taiwan-EU relations, Vestager referred to China’s increasing military presence in the Taiwan Strait, including flying missions off the southwest coast of Taiwan. “This display of force may have a direct impact on European security and prosperity,” she said, adding that the EU encourages all parties to avoid any unilateral actions that might increase tensions across the Strait. “We Europeans
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Kuo-shu (黃國書) yesterday said he would leave the party and would not seek re-election, as he confirmed a report that he worked as an informant for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) authoritarian regime when he was a student. The Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) reported on Saturday that Huang, 57, worked as an informant for the KMT when he was in college. Huang yesterday on Facebook said he accepts political responsibility for working with the authoritarian government to spy on his fellow students when he was in university and apologized to those affected