Young Islamists in Denmark Express Support for Killer

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A Danish journalist reporting from the site where 22-year old Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, the gunman responsible for two attacks that left two dead and five wounded in Copenhagen, found young Muslims expressing support for El-Hussein.

Flowers had been left at the site where El-Hussein died, prompting Danish politicians to question why anyone would lay flowers to commemorate a murderer.  Although police were out in force at the site, they did not prevent supporters of El-Hussein from laying flowers.

Shouting together “Allahu Akhbar,” God is great, the group that had gathered at the site told the journalist that they are “brothers” to El-Hussein. Later, they were seen removing the flowers, explaining that it is not an Islamic tradition to leave flowers for the dead. In exchange, they left a note which read, “May Allah be merciful with you. Rest in peace.”

Reporter Lisbeth Davidsen of TV 2 said the young people demonstrating at the site where El-Hussein was killed were angry, saying that El-Hussein had been branded as a terrorist before there was proof and that Danish society was discriminatory towards Muslims.

The youth said that if a person has dark hair they are automatically called Mohammed and not able to get work.  Others commented that while the body of the man who was killed in front of the synagogue was covered, El-Husseini’s body was left out in the open uncovered. They also said that if Muslims are killed, it is not reported, but if Jews are killed, it is reported immediately.

A posting on his Facebook page made just the first attack, El Husseini  swore allegiance to the Islamic State’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.  The post pledged, "allegiance to Abu Bakr in full obedience in the good and bad things. And I won't dispute with him unless it is an outrageous disbelief."

EL-Hussein opened fired on a café hosting a free speech forum and afterwards a synagogue. The free speech event was a debate on whether or not limits should be placed on artistic expression in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris. It was organized by Lars Vilks, a controversial Swedish cartoonist who has received dozens of death threats as a result of his drawing cartoons of the founder of Islam, Mohammed, as a dog.

Vilks, who has been the target of attacks in the past, survived this attack and has since gone into hiding. He has received death threats since 2007 when  Al-Qaeda in Iraq (now the Islamic State) put a $100,000 bounty on his head after his unflattering representation of Mohammed.

Film-maker Finn Nørgaard, 55, was killed and three police officers were wounded in the attack on the free speech event.  The French ambassador to Denmark, François Zimeray, was also present at the event when the shooting took place, but was unharmed. 

After the shooting at the café, Hussein managed to escape. Ten hours later, he attacked a synagogue where a celebration was taking place. There, he killed a volunteer Jewish security guard, 37-year-old Dan Uzan, and wounded two policemen.

El-Hussein was shot and killed after he was cornered by police in a narrow street near the railway station in Norrebro, about four kilometers from the scene of the synagogue attack, The New York Times reported.

He had been released two weeks prior from prison, after being arrested for a vicious stabbing attack on a passenger on a train. He was ultimately convicted on a lesser charge and was sentence to 15 months in prison, the time he had already spent incarcerated while awaiting trial.

The Associated Press reported that El Hussein may have become radicalized in prison, quoting a source that told the news agency that a change in his behavior triggered enough "alarm bells" to cause prison authorities to alert Denmark's counter-terror agency.

A local newspaper, Ekstra Bladet, reported that friends of El-Hussein said that he was “consumed with hatred of Jews.”

 “It was no coincidence that the 22-year-old presumed terrorist went after a Jewish synagogue when he was on a killing spree in Copenhagen late Saturday night,” the article said. “According to several classmates, whom Ekstra Bladet has been in touch with, the 22-year-old harbored an intense hatred of Jews. Although he had Palestinian roots, he was born and raised in Denmark.”

A former classmate of El Hussein told the paper, “He was consumed with hatred of Jews and was very aggressive when he talked about the Israel-Palestine conflict.”

The Danish paper also reported that a video was posted to El-Hussein’s Facebook page close to 45 minutes before the first attack that included a song about violent jihad.

Although Danish authorities originally though El Hussein had acted alone, two people have been detained who are accused of helping El Hussein dispose of the weapon he used while he was trying to evade the police. 

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

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