Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt on Sunday (15 February) said she would propose new measures in the fight against extremism and radicalisation, following the shootings in Copenhagen over the weekend which left three people dead, including the suspected gunman, as well as five policemen injured.
On Saturday (14 February) around 3:30 PM, a gunman,later confirmed by the police to be the 22-year old Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, opened fire outside the culture house Krudttønden in Copenhagen where artists such as the two Swedes Lars Vilks and Dan Park as well as the French Ambassador to Denmark, François Zimeray, were debating freedom of speech following the terror attacks in France a month ago. Vilks is famous for his controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, including one depiction of the Prophet as a dog.
The attack left one man, the 55-year old Danish film director Finn Nørgaard, dead, while three policemen were injured. Hours later in a separate attack, the police said El-Hussein shot dead a member of the Jewish community in Denmark, Dan Uzan, outside a synagogue, while also shooting two policemen.
The killings were possibly inspired by the terror attacks in France a month ago, which targeted the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, as well as a Jewish supermarket, leaving 17 people dead. While the gunmen in France had links to the Islamic militant group al-Qaida, El-Hussein was only known to Danish police for gang-related crime.
Thousands of young people from Western Europe have headed to the war zones in Syria and Iraq to join extremists. While paying a visit to the synagogue on Sunday, Thorning-Schmidt said she was unaware whether El-Hussein had been a foreign fighter, but still promised to “introduce measures in the nearest future to fight these people who choose to leave their peaceful, democratic country to fight elsewhere.”
Thorning-Schmidt did not elaborate on her comment. Shortly after the terror attacks in France, she said she was looking into how the Danish secret service can get extra resources to fight terrorism while also pushing forward a referendum on Denmark’s opt-out from EU justice and home affairs cooperation.
After 16 years as part of the criminal law enforcement agency Europol, Denmark might soon have to leave the EU’s police corporation. Denmark will also be excluded from the EU’s possible new Passenger Name Records (PNR) legislation which aims to determine travel patterns of terror suspects and draw conclusions concerning their stays in training camps or conflict areas.
While Thorning-Schmidt, as well as other pro-EU party leaders in the Danish parliament have promised a referendum on the justice opt-out by no later than April 2016, the referendum could be much closer now that previously expected.
Danish Minister for Justice Mette Frederiksen also told DR, the state broadcaster, on Sunday that new laws on terrorism could be expected after the attacks. She said at a news conference: “Unfortunately, there isn’t room for being naive neither today or in the future. There are dark powers that want to harm us and therefore we need to deliver a significant response.”
A month ago, Frederiksen visited the French Minister for Internal Affairs Bernard Cazeneuve in Paris to show her respect for the victims of the Paris killings. Only hours after the attacks, Cazeneuve returned the favour, saying he was visiting Copenhagen to show sympathy and support. French President François Hollande was likewise the first head of state to call Thorning-Schmidt and express his condolences.
“It means something to me and I think it means a lot for everyone in Denmark to know that the rest of the world is with us in a situation which is so difficult,” the justice minister said.