Abu Dhabi: Lars Vilks, a Swedish caricarturist whose offensive cartoons of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) in 2007 caused worldwide uproar was charred to death in a car crash in Sweden on Sunday, police said.
Vilks, who had been under police protection since 2010, was headed home in southern Sweden when the civilian police vehicle he was traveling in veered across the median and collided head-on with a truck, killing Vilks, 75, and his two bodyguards, the police said.
The truck driver was taken to a hospital with serious injuries.
Police said there was nothing at this point to indicate that this was an assassination.
The accident occurred on Sunday afternoon along a four-lane highway in Markaryd, about 480km southwest of Stockholm.
Muslims consider depictions of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) to be blasphemous, and cartoons such as the one by Vilks sparked widespread backlash for . In 2015, militants stormed the Paris office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which had reprinted the cartoon, and killed 12 people.
Vilks’s offensive black-and-white drawing was published by a regional paper in Sweden in 2007 and was condemned by Muslims in the country, as well as by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, an umbrella organisation of 57 Muslim-majority countries.
Vilks subsequently received death threats, and a group linked to Al Qaida placed a $100,000 bounty on his head, forcing him to temporarily move to a secret location.
Vilks was threatened repeatedly after the cartoon was published.
In 2010, he was assaulted while giving a lecture on free speech at Uppsala University in Sweden. That year, two brothers were also jailed for trying to burn down his house. In a separate case, a suicide bomber sent messages to several Swedish news organisations singling out Vilks before detonating two explosives in central Stockholm, killing himself.
In 2015, a gunman in Copenhagen attacked a cafe where Vilks was speaking at an event called “Art, Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression,” killing a filmmaker and wounding three police officers.
After the attacks, Vilks travelled with armed bodyguards.