Anti-Islam Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, known for his sacrilegious depiction of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), has been killed in a car crash in Sweden.
The 75-year-old cartoonist, who infuriated hundreds of millions of Muslims worldwide for his provocative image against Islam’s most revered figure in 2007, was reported dead on Monday after his vehicle crashed near the southern town of Markaryd on Sunday.
“We do everything we can to investigate what happened and what caused the collision,” Swedish police said in a statement. “Initially, there is nothing that points to anyone else being involved.”
Since the publication of his derogatory cartoon, Vilks had been living under round-the-clock police guard. He had been purportedly subjected to death threats over the depiction.
The cartoonist, who had an alleged bounty put on his head and lived in a secret location, was traveling in a civilian police vehicle that collided with a truck on Sunday, police said, adding that both vehicles caught fire after the collision. They further said two officers also lost their lives and the truck driver was injured in the accident. Although the police vehicle had puncture-proof tires, one of its tries reportedly burst shortly before the collision.
“While the police car was driving in the opposite direction at a speed of almost 160 kilometers per hour, its tire burst. The driver, who lost control, crashed into the truck coming from the opposite direction. Explosions occurred as a result of the crash. The truck and car caught fire,” a Norwegian eyewitness told the Swedish daily Aftonbladet.
Police said they launched an investigation into the incident. “This is being investigated like any other road accident. Because two policemen were involved, an investigation has been assigned to a special section of the prosecutor’s office,” a police spokesperson told AFP, adding that there was no suspicion of foul play.
Following the outrage caused after the publication of the sacrilegious cartoon, then Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt met with ambassadors from 22 Muslim countries in an attempt to defuse the tense situation.