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Lars Vilks: Swede who lived under police protection after drawing Prophet Muhammad dies in crash

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By Euronews  with AP
Swedish artist Lars Vilks in 2012
Swedish artist Lars Vilks in 2012   -   Copyright  Linus Sundahl-Djerf/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Swedish artist Lars Vilks, known for his 2007 drawing of the Prophet Muhammad and the subsequent death threats that followed, died in a car crash on Sunday.

Vilks, who was largely unknown outside of Sweden before his Muhammad drawing, had been living under police protection since 2007.

The drawing of Muhammand with a dog’s body led to a number of plots against him, and Al-Qaida put a bounty on his head.

In 2010, two men tried to burn down his house in southern Sweden.

In 2015 he escaped unscathed in Copenhagen from an attack during a debate on Islamism and freedom of expression following the Charlie Hebdo massacre

Last year, a woman from Pennsylvania in the US pleaded guilty in a plot to try to kill him.

Dogs are considered unclean by conservative Muslims, and Islamic law generally opposes any depiction of the prophet, even favorable, for fear it could lead to idolatry.

Police said Vilks, 75, died alongside two of his bodyguards in a road accident.

The cause of the accident was under investigation.

Vilks insisted he was not a racist and didn’t have a political position, but wanted to probe the limits of what we can and cannot do.

"I think it's very important, if you want to talk about freedom of expression and Islam and Muslims, to have a real position, to have something provocative and transgressive enough to start a debate,” he said.

On the day of the attack on Charlie Hebdo, Lars Vilks confided his sadness to the regional newspaper Helsingborgs Dagblad. "We cannot give up on freedom of expression. The attack in Paris is unfortunately significant of the times we live in.”

A month later, on 14 February, a young Danish man of Palestinian origin tried to barge into a debate on freedom of expression organised in Copenhagen in response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

Vilks, the headliner of the meeting with the French ambassador, escaped unharmed, but a 55-year-old Danish film director was killed.

The assailant then managed to kill a Jewish security guard outside the Copenhagen synagogue, before being shot dead in a stand-off with Danish police.