Copenhagen Shooter, Known to Police, 'Maybe Inspired' by Paris Attacks

2015-02-15T122317Z_436078949_GM1EB2F1J8801_RTRMADP_3_DENMARK-SHOOTING
Investigative personnel work at the scene of a cafe shooting in Oesterbro, in Copenhagen, Denmark, February 15, 2015. Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters

The man believed to be responsible for two separate shooting attacks in Copenhagen on Saturday and early Sunday has been shot dead by Danish police.

Authorities in Denmark now say the gunman, who has yet to be identified, was "maybe inspired" by the deadly shootings in Paris last month at the offices of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo and at a Kosher supermarket.

The gunman may also "generally have been inspired by militant Islamist propaganda issued by IS [Islamic State] and other terrorist organizations," Jens Madsen, chief of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service, told reporters on Sunday.

The suspect was "on the radar" of the intelligence service, Danish news site The Local reports. Police said they don't believe the gunman traveled to Iraq or Syria for training or to be educated in radical Islam, Reuters reports.

Hours after the gunman opened fire at a free speech event in the capital, where controversial cartoonist Lars Vilks was speaking, it is believed he fired shots at a synagogue. One person died at the first attack at the Krudttonden cafe in Copenhagen, where the French ambassador to Denmark, Francois Zimeray, was also attending the event.

Gunshots rang out as Zimeray was speaking, and they can be heard in an audio recording obtained by the BBC.

Hours later, between midnight and 1 a.m., a man was shot in the head and killed near a synagogue in Krystalgade, an area in Copenhagen. The U.K.'s Channel 4 reports that the victim was a Jewish man who was working as a doorman for a party at a community center behind the synagogue. A total of five police officers were injured in the two attacks, Reuters reports.

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt spoke outside of the synagogue Sunday morning.

"A man lost his life in the service of this synagogue and we are devastated," she said.

"But our thoughts go to the whole of the Jewish community today. They belong in Denmark, they are a strong part of our community and we will do everything we can to protect the Jewish community in our country," she said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that attacks against Jews in Europe were likely to continue and encouraged Europe's Jews to move to Israel, which he called their "home."

"Israel is waiting for you with open arms," he said.

After the first attack, which was believed to target Vilks, 68, who has received a number of death threats since his 2007 depiction of the Prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog, Denmark's premier warned the country to remain vigilant. Vilks has been under the protection of Swedish police since 2010 and was accompanied by bodyguards at the time of the shooting.

"We feel certain now that it was a politically motivated attack, and thereby it was a terrorist attack," Thorning-Schmidt told reporters in Østerbro, an area in Copenhagen where the first attack happened. "We are on high alert all over the country."

A manhunt was under way after the first shooting, as police released a photo of the suspect, described as a 6-foot, 1-inch Arab man aged between 25 and 30, and the license plate number of the Volkswagen Polo he was driving. Less than an hour later, police said they found the abandoned car, The Local reports.

The suspected gunman was killed by police in Norrebro, a part of Copenhagen not far from where the attacks took place.

"We assume that it's the same culprit behind both incidents…that was shot by the police," Torben Molgaard Jensen, chief inspector of Copenhagen police, told reporters.

International condemnation of the attacks has been widespread, particularly because the shootings bore eerie similarities to those in Paris last month. Twenty people, including 10 journalists, police officers and the three gunmen, died in the Paris attacks.

In the U.S., the National Security Council (NSC) condemned the "deplorable shooting in Copenhagen," apparently referring only to the first shooting.

"We offer our condolences to the loved ones of the deceased victim, and our thoughts are with those wounded in this attack," said NSC spokesperson Bernadette Meehan in the statement. "We have been in close contact with our Danish counterparts and stand ready to lend any assistance necessary to the investigation."

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted her support and solidarity for the people of Copenhagen and the city's mayor, Frank Jensen, a month after she led her city through the similar terrorism incidents.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also tweeted his sympathies, as did British Prime Minister David Cameron, who said free speech "must always be protected." French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve is in Copenhagen Sunday.