Al-Qaeda Offers Reward for Cartoonist's Death

Al-Baghdadi: $150,000 to slaughter cartoonist "like a lamb"

ByABC News
February 9, 2009, 7:07 PM

LONDON, September 15, 2007— -- A group linked to al-Qaeda offered a cash reward Saturday to anyone who would kill a Swedish cartoonist for drawings deemed insulting to the Prophet Mohammed.

In a 31-minute audio statement posted on an Islamist Web site, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, head of the extremist Islamic State in Iraq, offered $100,000 for artist Lars Vilks' murder. Al-Baghdadi also promised $50,000 for the killing of the editor-in-chief of the newspaper that printed Vilks' cartoon.

"From now on we announce the call to shed the blood of the Lars who dared to insult our Prophet…and during this munificent month we announce an award worth $100,000 to the person who kills this infidel criminal," the statement said, according to a report by Reuters.

"The award will be increased to $150,000 if he were to be slaughtered like a lamb," the statement added.

Vilks' cartoon, printed in the Swedish regional newspaper Nerikes Allehanda in August, showed the head of Mohammed on the body of a dog. The newspaper published the drawing alongside an editorial defending freedom of speech and freedom of religion after three Swedish art galleries had refused to display the picture over security concerns.

"This is unacceptable self-censorship," the editorial stated, an English translation of which was posted on the newspaper's Web site today. "The right to freedom of religion and the right to blaspheme religions go together."

Editor-in-chief Ulf Johansson, who says he first heard of the price on his head when reports of al-Baghdadi's tape reached the paper's newsroom this morning, told ABC News he didn't expect death threats over the decision to publish Vilks' cartoon.

But, he said, "It's a threat you must take seriously. We are discussing right now what measures to take."

Today's tape comes nearly two years after a Danish newspaper published a series of cartoons satirizing the Prophet Mohammed, leading to massive protests throughout the Muslim world and sending the cartoonists into hiding.

Islam regards any visual representation of the Prophet Mohammed as sacrilege.