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Last Updated: Monday, 17 September 2007, 18:31 GMT 19:31 UK
Sweden cartoonist gets protection
Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks
Lars Vilks (L) spoke to journalists the day before being whisked away
The Swedish cartoonist at the centre of a row over drawings of the Prophet Muhammad says police have taken him to a secret location for his own safety.

Lars Vilks said he was only able to pick up a few things when he returned from Germany at the weekend before police escorted him from his home.

The purported head of al-Qaeda in Iraq has offered $100,000 (49,310) to anyone who kills Mr Vilks.

Muslims regard visual representation of the Prophet as blasphemous.

Several Muslim countries have protested against the cartoon.

Mr Vilks said the Swedish secret services considered the threat against him as "very serious".

"The police guard was non-existent before this. It's 100% now," Mr Vilks said in a telephone interview with Associated Press agency.

"I can't live in my home, I've only been allowed to pick up some things."

Local laws

A man said to be the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, offered a reward for the murder of Mr Vilks in an audio message aired on the internet.

Nerikes Allehanda website
Nerikes Allehanda newspaper defended publishing the cartoon

The $100,000 (49,310) reward would be raised by 50% if Mr Vilks was "slaughtered like a lamb", he said.

The cartoon showed the Prophet Muhammad's head on a dog's body and was published by Nerikes Allehanda newspaper on 18 August.

Many Muslims regard the dog as an impure animal.

But Ibrahim el-Zayat, of the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe, told the BBC that Muslims in the West had to live with the local laws on freedom of expression.

He said there were much more important issues to worry about, and praised the Swedish government for trying to defuse tensions.

This month, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt met ambassadors from 22 Muslim countries over the issue.

Last year there were riots over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, first published in September 2005 by the newspaper Jyllands-Posten.


SEE ALSO
Bounty set over Prophet cartoon
15 Sep 07 |  Middle East
Sweden acts to cool cartoon row
07 Sep 07 |  Europe
Iraq Sunni mourners vow revenge
14 Sep 07 |  Middle East
Q&A: The Muhammad cartoons row
07 Feb 06 |  Special Reports

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