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Mohammad cartoons still resonate as Nordic risk.

STOCKHOLM: How did the Nordic region go from being a tranquil group of countries known for their egalitarian ideals to a prime target for militant attacks

One word: cartoons.

The arrest on Wednesday of five people suspected of planning a bloody strike on a newspaper office in Copenhagen, two weeks after a botched suicide bombing in Stockholm, was the latest and strongest sign that cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad are still a potent recruiting tool for militants.

Five years ago Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoons lampooning Islam, including one by illustrator Kurt Westergaard showing the Prophet with a bomb in his turban.

Islam considers any image of the Prophet to be offensive and the cartoons set off a storm of deadly protests worldwide.

There have been various attacks on Westergaard -- once with an axe -- and on the newspaper, but nothing on the scale of what police described on Wednesday. A machinegun and plastic strips for possible use as handcuffs were among the items seized.

"A number of experts including myself have been surprised at the importance that al Qaeda and its like-minded jihadi fellow travellers have attached to the caricatures and the energy they have devoted to trying to hit Jyllands-Posten," Brynjar Lia of the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment said.

"Jyllands-Posten is clearly the most legitimate target for attack for jihadi in Europe at the moment," said Lia, a senior research fellow.

Both Denmark and Sweden have committed troops to the western forces in Afghanistan and Danish soldiers were also stationed in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion.

But the cartoons have become a symbol of what militants see as a hostile West: they are a powerful and enduring call to arms.

Michael Taarnby, an independent researcher in Denmark, said the threat is here to stay. "This is not going away. They will keep trying," he said.

"BLINKING RED"

Though three of the suspects in the alleged Danish attack plan were Swedish citizens, police said there was no sign of a direct link between Wednesday s arrests and the Dec. 11 bombing in Stockholm.

In that case, a man appears to have planned to blow up a railway station or department store but ended up only blowing up himself.

Muscat Press and Publishing House SAOC 2009

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Geographic Code:4EUSW
Date:Dec 30, 2010
Words:384
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