Copenhagen (AFP) – Danish police on Monday arrested two suspected accomplices of the gunman who killed two people in twin weekend attacks in Copenhagen that have stoked renewed fears of extremist violence in Europe.
The suspected attacker, gunned down by police in a pre-dawn shootout on Sunday, was identified as a 22-year-old with a history of violent crime who had only been freed from jail two weeks ago.
Danish intelligence said the gunman, who killed two people in attacks just hours apart at a cultural centre and a synagogue may have been inspired by last month’s attacks in Paris.
Expressions of sympathy and horror poured in from across the world after the shootings described by Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt as a “cynical act of terror”.
At the synagogue in the centre of Copenhagen, tearful Danes laid flowers and lit candles for the victims of an attack that stunned the normally peaceful Scandinavian nation.
Several media identified the gunman as Omar El-Hussein, who was said by the Ekstra-Bladet tabloid to have been released from prison two weeks ago after serving a term for aggravated assault – raising fears he may have become radicalised behind bars.
Investigators said the man, who was born and raised in Denmark, had a history of assault and weapons offences.
Copenhagen police said in a statement early Monday they had arrested two men suspected of helping the gunman.
In a killing spree that bore a striking resemblance to the Paris attacks, the gunman first fired off a volley of bullets outside the Krudttoenden centre on Saturday afternoon as a panel discussion about Islam and free speech was taking place.
Documentary film-maker Finn Norgaard, 55, who colleagues said had a special interest in the problems of integration in Denmark, was killed.
In the second attack in the early hours of Sunday, the gunman opened fire outside the synagogue during a bar mitzvah, killing a 37-year-old Jewish man named as Dan Uzan who was guarding the building.
Five policemen were wounded in the two incidents before the gunmen was tracked down to a working class suburb of Copenhagen and killed in a shootout with police.
Police said the gunman was already “on the radar” of the intelligence services and that they were looking into the possibility he had travelled to conflict zones such as Syria and Iraq.
“He may have been inspired by the events that took place in Paris a few weeks ago,” Jens Madsen, head of the Security and Intelligence Service, told reporters.
A photo of the suspect issued after the first attack showed him wearing a black puffer jacket and a maroon balaclava and carrying a black bag.
Armed officers raided a Copenhagen Internet cafe in one of a series of operations on Sunday as police stepped up patrols on the streets of the city of one million people.
The central area of the capital that is home to both the synagogue and Noerreport station, the country’s busiest rail hub, was cordoned off by police carrying machine guns.
The attacks have revived fears in Europe about extremist violence and anti-Semitic attacks against Jews since the bloody events in Paris on January 7-9.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged European Jews to move to Israel after Saturday’s shooting, echoing a similar call made after the Paris attacks.
But France responded icily to his comments, with President Francois Hollande saying Monday that Jews belonged in Europe and in France.
“The terrorists are determined to hit what we are, what we represent, the values of freedom, of law, of protection that every citizen – whatever his or her religion – should have,” he said on Sunday.
Four Jews were among a total of 17 people killed in the French capital in attacks on a kosher supermarket and the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly, which was targeted because it had published cartoons lampooning the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten was itself the centre of global controversy after publishing Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) cartoons in 2005 that triggered protests across the Muslim world.
World governments reacted with outrage to the Copenhagen killings.
British Prime Minister David Cameron condemned them as an “appalling attack on free speech and religious freedom”, while the United States branded them “deplorable”.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon said there was “no justification” for the attacks and urged society to stand up for tolerance.
In Paris on Sunday, several hundred demonstrators gathered at the Danish embassy, some chanting “Je suis danois”, echoing the slogan “Je suis Charlie” that took hold around the world after the French attacks.