Reports: Cartoonist attacker earlier held in Kenya

AP News
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Posted: Jan 03, 2010 7:40 AM

The Somali man who attacked an artist who depicted the Prophet Muhammad in a controversial cartoon has previously been arrested in Kenya, Danish media reported Sunday.

The Danish intelligence agency PET knew that the 28-year-old Somali man was held in Kenya in September for allegedly participating in plotting an attack against U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Politiken newspaper reported Sunday.

Citing unnamed sources, it said he was later released due to lack of evidence.

Clinton visited Kenya as part of an 11-day-tour of Africa in August.

Denmark's ambassador to Kenya, Bo Jensen, told the news agency Ritzau that the Somali man was arrested in Kenya at the time for having incomplete travel documents. However, he said Kenyan authorities never told the embassy he was suspected in any terror plot and that the newspaper misunderstood the situation.

PET would not comment Sunday on the reports or the Somali suspect.

The suspect was charged with two counts of attempted murder Saturday after breaking into artist Kurt Westergaard's home armed with an ax and a knife on Friday night. He denied the charges at the court hearing.

Westergaard _ one of 12 Danish artists whose cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad outraged the Muslim world in 2006 _ escaped the attack by fleeing to a specially made safe room and alerting police. Police shot the Somali man in the hand and knee.

On Saturday, the head of the Danish intelligence agency, Jakob Scharf, said the man was suspected of having been involved in terror-related activities in east Africa with the terror group al-Shabab and had been under PET's surveillance. However, he did not specifically mention Kenya or any attack against Clinton.

Westergaard's cartoon of Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban was viewed as the most provocative of the 12, and he has been the target of several death threats since then. He has been under round-the-clock police protection since February 2008.

Islamic law generally opposes any depiction of the prophet, even favorable, for fear it could lead to idolatry.