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Texas shooting: Prophet Mohamed cartoon contest organiser condemn attack as 'war on free speech' after police kill two gunmen

By Adam Withnall

Published 04/05/2015

Police officers stands guard at a parking lot near the Curtis Culwell Center where a provocative contest for cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad was held Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Garland, Texas. The contest was put on lockdown Sunday night and attendees were being evacuated after authorities reported a shooting outside the building. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Police officers stands guard at a parking lot near the Curtis Culwell Center where a provocative contest for cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad was held Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Garland, Texas. The contest was put on lockdown Sunday night and attendees were being evacuated after authorities reported a shooting outside the building. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
A Texas state trooper stands guard at a parking lot near the Curtis Culwell Center where a provocative contest for cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad was held Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Garland, Texas. The contest was put on lockdown Sunday night and attendees were being evacuated after authorities reported a shooting outside the building. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Artist Bosh Fawstin, left, is presented with a check for 12,500 by Dutch politician Geert Wilders, center, and Pamela Geller, right, during the American Freedom Defense Initiative program at the Curtis Culwell Center on Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Garland, Texas. (Gregory Castillo/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
People are sequestered by members of the Garland Police Department inside the Curtis Culwell Center, Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Garland, Texas. A contest for cartoons depictions of the Prophet Muhammad in the Dallas suburb is on lockdown Sunday after authorities reported a shooting outside the building. (AP Photo/Nomaan Merchant)
Pamela Geller, co-founder and President of Stop Islamization of America, is shown during the American Freedom Defense Initiative program at the Curtis Culwell Center on Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Garland, Texas. (Gregory Castillo/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
Garland Police spokesperson Joe Harn addresses media about the shooting at the Curtis Culwell Center where a provocative contest for cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad was held Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Garland, Texas. The contest was put on lockdown Sunday night and attendees were being evacuated after authorities reported a shooting outside the building. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
An armed police officer stands guard on a road near the Curtis Culwell Center where a provocative contest for cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad was held Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Garland, Texas. The contest was put on lockdown Sunday night and attendees were being evacuated after authorities reported a shooting outside the building. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Members of the Garland Police Department stand inside the Curtis Culwell Center, Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Garland, Texas. A contest for cartoons depictions of the Prophet Muhammad in the Dallas suburb is on lockdown Sunday after authorities reported a shooting outside the building. (AP Photo Nomaan Merchant)
An armed police officer stands guard at a parking lot near the Curtis Culwell Center where a provocative contest for cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad was held Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Garland, Texas. The contest was put on lockdown Sunday night and attendees were being evacuated after authorities reported a shooting outside the building. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Two gunmen have been shot dead in Texas after attacking an anti-Islamic event exhibiting cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed, in what the organiser has called an act of “war on free speech”.

Extra security including SWAT teams had been posted to the event at a school building in the city of Garland, and the event had faced criticism for being openly inflammatory and anti-Islamic.

Police said the incident at around 7pm on Sunday evening lasted “seconds”. Two suspects drove up to the building as the event was ending, got out and open fire with automatic rifles on an unarmed member of the security staff.

Garland police officers opened fire on the shooters, killing both. The security officer was injured in the leg and required hospital treatment, but has since been released. No one else was injured.

The event was organised by Pamela Geller, president of the American Freedom Defence Initiative (AFDI) – which has been described as a hate group by civil rights advocates and has previously sponsored anti-Islamic advertising campaigns across the country.

Organisers themselves linked the event heavily to the Charlie Hebdo magazine shootings, when gunmen killed 12 people in Paris over satirical cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohamed. The venue for Sunday’s event was chosen, Geller said, because it was where American Muslim leaders held a conference on combating Islamophobia a week after the Paris attacks.

In a response to the shooting on its Facebook page, the AFDI posted: “This is war on free speech. What are we going to do? Are we going to surrender to these monsters?”

Garland officials defended allowing the event, which offered a $10,000 prize for the “best” artwork or caricature depicting the Prophet Mohamed, to go ahead despite security concerns

Mayor Douglas Athas told CNN: “There was concern, which is why we had heightened security in the area, but we all swear to uphold the Constitution: free speech, free assembly and in this case perhaps, free religion. So in this case they were free to use the building.”

The event was attended by the controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders, an anti-Islamic campaigner who famously features on a wanted list published by al-Qaeda.

In his speech at the event, shown in a video clip posted on AFDI's website, Dutch politician Wilders claimed that he supported the event because depicting the Prophet and violating one of Islam's greatest taboos was a liberating act.

He said: “Our message today is very simple: we will never allow barbarism, never allow Islam, to rob us of our freedom of speech.”

Most of the 200 or so people at the event were unaware that a shooting had occurred until police entered the building to ask them to remain indoors. The area was later evacuated while officers checked the attackers’ car for explosives, city police spokesman Joe Harn said, though this was described as a “precaution”.

Source Independent

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