Police Arrest Several Suspects in Plot to Kill Muhammad Cartoonist

Danish police said Tuesday they have arrested several people suspected of plotting to kill one of the 12 cartoonists behind the Prophet Muhammad drawings that sparked an uproar in the Muslim world two years ago.

The arrests were made in pre-dawn raids in Aarhus, western Denmark, "to prevent a terror-related murder," the police intelligence agency said. It did not say how many people were arrested nor did it mention which cartoonist was targeted.

However, according to Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that first published the drawings on Sept. 30, 2005, the suspects were planning to kill its cartoonist Kurt Westergaard.

"There were very concrete murder plans against Kurt Westergaard," said Carsten Juste, the paper's editor-in-chief.

The cartoons were later reprinted by a range of Western publications, and they sparked deadly protests in parts of the Muslim world.

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

Westergaard, 73, and his wife Gitte, 66, had been living under police protection because of the murder plans, Jyllands-Posten reported. It said those arrested included both Danish and foreign citizens.

"Of course I fear for my life when the police intelligence service say that some people have concrete plans to kill me. But I have turned fear into anger and resentment," Westergaard said in a statement published on Jyllands-Posten's Web site.

PET, the police intelligence service, called the action "preventive," saying it decided to strike "at an early phase to stop the planning and the carrying out of the murder."