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Cartoonist says police underestimated threat

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Cartoonist says police underestimated threat
Lars Vilks criticized Danish police but conceded that it was "easy with hindsight" to say they could have done more. Photo: Bjorn Lindgren/TT News Agency/Scanpix
16:54 CET+01:00
Lars Vilks, the Swedish cartoonist believed to have been the target of one of the deadly Copenhagen shootings said Tuesday that Danish police "had not caught onto" new realities following last month's Paris attacks.
Lars Vilks – who has faced several death threats since his cartoon portraying the Prophet Mohammed as a dog was published in a Swedish newspaper in 2007 – has gone into hiding after Saturday's deadly attacks, in which he was apparently targeted but escaped harm. 
 
The 68-year-old artist, who already lives under constant police protection, told news wire AFP on Tuesday that Danish police had underestimated the terrorist threat since January's Paris attacks.
 
 
"The attacker had good weapons, he had better weapons than the police," Lars Vilks, who has been forced into hiding since the weekend shootings, told AFP.
 
"There was an escalation since the Charlie Hebdo attacks [in Paris] and the Danes had not caught onto that," he said.
 
Vilks was among those attending a debate on Islam and free speech at a cultural centre attacked on Saturday by a gunman who also targeted a synagogue in a rampage that left two people dead and five wounded.
 
The assaults came just weeks after the Paris attacks last month by Islamist gunmen on the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly and a kosher supermarket that left 17 people dead.
 
"They did not step up security on Saturday. It was the same as we had previously... they must consider whether they need to be better armed," the cartoonist said, referring to the 'Art, Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression' event in Østerbro that was the target of the first Copenhagen shooting.
 
Vilks, who had his own security detail at the event, emerged unharmed after the gunman fired off dozens of rounds outside the centre.
 
But he conceded that it was "easy with hindsight" to say that the police could have done more.
 
Vilks has lived under police protection since 2010 and on Tuesday, police in Helsingborg reportedly carried out an action at the artist's home although it was unclear if there was a threat or if officers were merely retrieving his belongings. Vilks was not present.
 
Swedish police said Monday they had moved the artist from his home to an undisclosed "safe" location.
 
Vilks' comments about come as it emerged the supposed gunman was already known to the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) as someone who may have been radicalized while in jail. 
 
Vilks said that despite the threats he intended to keep speaking out about freedom of expression.
 
"I have no plans to give up. But I don't know what security decisions will be made -- it could be deemed inappropriate to speak publicly. It would be tragic if that was the case, he said. "But there can't be a military operation every time I'm going to lecture."
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