COPENHAGEN — Police in Denmark and Sweden halted an imminent terrorist attack yesterday by arresting five men who planned to shoot as many people as possible in a building housing the newsroom of a paper that published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, officials said.
Denmark’s intelligence service said that after months of surveillance it arrested four men in two raids in suburbs of the capital, Copenhagen, and seized a submachine gun, a silencer, and ammunition. Swedish police said they arrested a 37-year-old Swedish citizen of Tunisian origin living in Stockholm.
“An imminent terror attack has been foiled,’’ said Jakob Scharf, head of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service. He described some of the suspects as “militant Islamists with relations to international terror networks’’ and said more arrests were possible.
The Danish security service said it seized a 44-year-old Tunisian, a 29-year-old Lebanese-born man, and a 30-year-old who were living in Sweden and had entered Denmark by early yesterday. The fourth person detained was a 26-year-old Iraqi asylum-seeker in Copenhagen.
The service said the group had been planning to enter the building where the Jyllands-Posten daily has its Copenhagen news desk and “to kill as many of the people present as possible.’’
The four men face preliminary charges of attempting to carry out an act of terrorism. They face a custody hearing today.
“I am shocked that a group of people have concrete plans to commit a serious terrorist attack in this country,’’ Danish Prime Minister Loekke Rasmussen said.
There have been at least four plots to attack Jyllands-Posten or Kurt Westergaard, the artist who drew the most contentious of 12 cartoons, which were published in 2005 as a challenge to perceived self-censorship.