Threatened Swedish artist reportedly dead in road accident

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Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who had been living under police protection since his sketch of the prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog in 2007 brought death threats, died in a traffic accident on Sunday, Swedish news media reported.

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News media said the accident involved a truck colliding with a civilian police car in which Lars Wilkes and his police protection were traveling.

Swedish news agency TT said police had confirmed that 75-year-old Vilks was traveling in the car with two police officers, and the newspaper Dagens Nyter said the artist’s partner confirmed his death.


The cause of the accident was being investigated.

Wilkes was largely unknown outside Sweden prior to painting Muhammad. At home, he was known to have built a sculpture made of driftwood in a nature reserve in southern Sweden without permission, sparking a protracted legal battle. That was fined, but the seaside sculpture – wood jumbled together in chaotic fashion – attracts thousands of visitors a year.

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Wilkes’ life changed radically after he made a sketch of Muhammad with the body of a dog 13 years ago. Dogs are considered unclean by Orthodox Muslims and Islamic law generally opposes any depiction of the Prophet, even favourable, for fear it could lead to idolatry.

Al-Qaeda placed a bounty on Wilkes’ head. In 2010, two men tried to burn down his house in southern Sweden. Last year, a Pennsylvania woman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to try to kill him.


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