2 gunmen shot dead at Prophet Muhammad art exhibit
04 May 2015, 08:15
Dallas - Two gunmen opened fire on Sunday
at an art exhibit in Garland, Texas, that was organised by an anti-Islamic
group and featured caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad and were themselves shot
dead at the scene by police officers, city officials and police said.
The shooting, an echo of past attacks or
threats in other Western countries against art depicting the Prophet, took
place shortly before 19:00 in a parking lot of the Curtis Culwell Centre in
Garland, northeast of Dallas.
Police said they had not immediately determined
the identity of the two gunmen or whether they were linked to critics of the
event who branded it anti-Islamic.
"I have no idea who they area, other
than they're dead and in the street," city police spokesperson officer Joe
Harn, told Reuters.
As a precaution, police were examining the
suspects' car for any explosives that might be in the vehicle, Harn added.
The exhibit in Garland was organised by
Pamela Geller, president of the American Freedom Defence Initiative (AFDI). Her
organisation, which is described by the Southern Poverty Law Centre as a hate
group, has sponsored anti-Islamic advertising campaigns in transit systems
across the country.
The two armed suspects drove up to the
front of the building in a car as the event, called the "Muhammad Art
Exhibit," was coming to an end, and began shooting at a security officer,
striking him in the leg, Harn said.
Garland police officers who were on the
scene assisting with security then exchanged fire with the gunmen, and both
suspects were shot dead, Harn said.
The security officer was treated at a local
hospital and later released, he said. No one else was injured.
Most of the people attending the event were
still inside the arena when the violence unfolded and were unaware of what had
occurred until police came into the building and advised everyone to remain
indoors because of a shooting.
Western art depicting the Prophet has
sometimes angered Muslims and provoked threats from radicals. In January,
Islamist gunmen attacked the Paris offices of the French satirical magazine
Charlie Hebdo in revenge for its cartoons of the Prophet, killing 12 people.
Organisers of the Garland event offered a
$10 000 prize for the best artwork or cartoon depicting the Prophet, as well as
a $2 500 "People's Choice Award”.
Geller is known for her stance on Islam. In
2010, she led a march to the site of a proposed Islamic centre near the site of
the destroyed World Trade Centre.
In response the shooting in Garland, the
AFDI issued a statement on Facebook saying, "This is war on free speech.
What are we going to do? Are we going to surrender to these monsters?"