Sunday, September 30, 2007

Bounty set over Prophet cartoon

(Last Bump)

BBC - The purported head of al-Qaeda in Iraq has offered a reward for the murder of a Swedish cartoonist over his drawing depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

The $100,000 (£49,310) reward would be raised by 50% if Lars Vilks was "slaughtered like a lamb" said the audio message aired on the internet.

The speaker, said to be Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, threatened a new offensive during the holy month of Ramadan.

Last month's cartoon showed Prophet Muhammad's head on a dog's body.

Several Muslim countries protested.

The latest cartoon was published by the Nerikes Allehanda newspaper on 18 August.

Last week, Sweden's Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt met ambassadors from 22 Muslim countries in an effort to defuse the row.

But Saturday's taped message said the militants were announcing a "call to shed the blood of the Lars who dared to insult our Prophet".

"During this generous month we announce an award worth $100,000 to the person who kills this infidel criminal," the speaker said.

He also announced a $50,000 reward for the killing of the editor of the newspaper.

And he said the Swedish government ought to apologise - otherwise al-Qaeda in Iraq would target "their economy and giant companies such as Ericsson, Volvo, Ikea, Scania".

The cartoon's creator, Lars Vilks, told Reuters news agency he was not worried by a threat from people representing "a very small branch of our Muslims".

But he could not disregard it, either, and was in contact with the police.

"It is fundamental for Western thinking to be able to express one's artistry without making exceptions for holiness," he said.

The speaker in the 30-minute tape also said he was "honoured to announce at the beginning of Ramadan an offensive in the name of... the martyr of the Islamic nation Abu Musab al-Zarqawi" who was killed in a US air strike last year.