In what appears to be a sequel to last year’s Dutch Mohammed cartoon, al-Qaida groups inside Iraq are offering rewards for the killing of a Swedish cartoonist, Lars Vilks, and his newspaper editor after they published a drawing of the Prophet Mohammed’s head on the body of a dog sculpture. The bounty is $150,000 for the death of the cartoonist, $50,000 for the editor.
“We are calling for the assassination of cartoonist Lars Vilks who dared insult our Prophet … and we announce a reward during this generous month of Ramadan,” al-Baghdadi said, according to transcripts of Islamic Web sites.
According to the Daily Times of Pakistan, the Algeria’s ambassador has condemned the threats, but the Swedish police have put the artist under their protection at a secret location and he’s not allowed to return home.
UPDATE: The AAEC has responded with comments from its officers Ted Rall and Nick Anderson:
“It will come as a surprise to no one that al-Qaida opposes the concept of freedom of expression,” said the Houston Chronicle cartoonist, when contacted by E&P. “In the Western world, the appropriate response to offensive speech is more speech. But then, we wouldn’t be at war if al-Qaida embraced Western thinking.”
Anderson, a 2005 Pulitzer Prize winner, added: “My colleague, AAEC Vice President Ted Rall, quipped, ‘It’s about time someone was willing to pay real money for a cartoonist.'”
Rall also said wryly: “Anyone who doubts political cartoons are powerful should note that al-Qaida is trying to silence political cartoonists. Fire a cartoonist — refuse to hire a cartoonist — and the terrorists have won.”