SRINAGAR: Swedish artist, who caricatured the Prophet of Islam in 2007, died in a road accident as his car and a truck went up in flames on Sunday, reports in the media said.
Identified as Lars Vilks, 75, he was living in police protection since 2007. His caricatures, termed blasphemous by the Muslim world that strictly follows the tradition of aniconism – avoiding images of saintiest beings, led to an uproar worldwide.
International media reported that Vilks was travelling in a police car that collided with a truck.
“The car, which had left Stockholm and was heading south, veered into the path of the truck and both vehicles burst into flames,” al-Jazeera reported. Two cops who were deployed on his protection were also killed as the truck driver was flown to hospital with serious injuries. “Police said they did not know why the car drove into the wrong lane but they were investigating whether a tyre might have exploded. The car transporting Vilks had puncture-proof tyres, police said. However, exploded tyre remains were reportedly found on the road.”
Police have said they will investigate the matter but “there is nothing that points to anyone else being involved.”
When Vilks drew the cartoons, no art gallery agreed to display his work. However, when the Örebro-based regional newspaper Nerikes Allehanda published one of the drawings on August 18, 2007, the hitherto unknown artist was talked about worldwide.
Since the publication of the cartoons, Vilks had been living under round-the-clock police guard following threats against his life. There were a few attempts at his life. In 2010, two men tried to burn down his house in southern Sweden, al-Jazeera reported, adding in 2014, a woman from the US state of Pennsylvania pleaded guilty in a plot to kill him. In 2015, one person was shot dead by a lone gunman in Copenhagen, Denmark, where Vilks was attending an event against Iranian fatwa against British writer Salman Rushdie.