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Copenhagen On Alert After Shootings Leave 3 Dead


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Indira Lakshmanan of Bloomberg News sitting in for Rachel Martin. The Copenhagen police say they have shot and killed a man they believe carried out two attacks that left two people dead; one at a cafe and one outside a synagogue. Five policemen were also wounded. The first attack took place on Saturday at an event promoting free speech at a cafe in the Danish capital. The featured speaker was Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has faced numerous threats since caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad. The shooter escaped, and hours later, another victim was shot and killed in front of Copenhagen's main synagogue. The two attacks bear copycat resemblance to last month's attacks in Paris at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Earlier, we reached Helle Merete Brix, one of the organizers at the event at the cafe.

HELLE MERETE BRIX: Suddenly we heard a lot of noise and later we experienced that was the shooter trying to get into the building. One of the security guards, he shouted everyone out, and Mr. Vilks and I ended up in a small sort of storage room. And then little by little, the situation was safe.

LAKSHMANAN: Joining us from Copenhagen this morning is Thomas Falbe. He's the editor-in-chief of Danish Broadcasting Corp. Good morning, Mr. Falbe.

THOMAS FALBE: Good morning.

LAKSHMANAN: So tell us, how and where did police catch this gunman?

FALBE: Apparently he was apprehended at the apartment earlier this morning around 5 a.m.. The apartment was under surveillance by the police because they got a tip from a taxi driver who apparently drove the suspected gunman to this address right after the first attack Saturday afternoon. And when he returned early this morning, they were ready, and they called out to him. And he answered the police by shooting towards them. And they ended up killing him.

LAKSHMANAN: All right. Well, all of Denmark has been on high alert while police hunted for this attacker. What do ordinary Danes make of all of this?

FALBE: This has been a terribly frightening experience in Copenhagen and for most Danes. The first event, the shooting took place in a very quiet neighborhood in Copenhagen at a very quiet debate debating blasphemy and art and the freedom of speech. And all of a sudden, Copenhagen was under huge police presence; police with machine guns everywhere, helicopters, parts of the city being blocked off. And then the events unfolded during the night, which just added to more fright and terror.

LAKSHMANAN: How are relations with the Muslim community in Denmark? And is there a history of Danish Muslims becoming radicalized?

FALBE: Well, this is, of course, a very big and intense debate in Denmark. We have a pretty big Muslim minority, around 400,000 or 500,000 people in Denmark. And there has been, over the years, individuals who have been radicalized. Right now, we believe there's between 100 and 150 Danish citizens who has gone to Syria to fight for Islamic State or other radical groups in Syria. But there hasn't been any major attacks in Denmark performed by Danish citizens on this scale. So there's been attempt earlier, but nothing like this.

LAKSHMANAN: Are these events going to make Danes or, for that matter, other European countries reconsider free speech without limits?

FALBE: Well, that is, of course, the big debate right now. And we had our prime minister just a few hours ago saying events like this cannot and must not influence the way we choose to live our lives and the way we express our opinions in public. But this has, of course, been a very huge debate ever since the attacks in Paris just a month ago and even before that since the publications of the Danish cartoons almost 10 years ago now.

LAKSHMANAN: Thomas Falbe of Danish Broadcasting. Thanks so much for being with us from Copenhagen this morning.

FALBE: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.