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Copenhagen free speech debate shooting: One dead

(BBC)…Gunmen have killed one person and injured three police officers at a free speech debate in Copenhagen attended by a controversial Swedish cartoonist, officials say.

The French ambassador was also present at the seminar.

Reports say up to 40 shots were fired and a manhunt has been launched.

Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who has previously faced death threats over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, was unhurt.

Shortly after the shooting, a message appeared on the Twitter feed of French ambassador Francois Zimeray saying he was still alive.

In an audio recording which emerged from the attack, one of the speakers at the debate is suddenly interrupted by a barrage of gunshots.

Eyewitness Niels Ivar Larsen, speaking to the Associated Press news agency, said: “I heard someone firing with an automatic weapon and someone shouting.

“Police returned fire and I hid behind the bar.”

A photo taken on March, 11, 2010 shows Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks walking in the streets of Stockholm. Vilks, known for his drawing of the Prophet Mohammed with the body of a dog in 2007 was attending a debate on Islam and free speech as gunmen opened fire on February 16, 2015 in Copenhagen Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks has faced death threats for many years
Emergency services gather outside a venue after shots were fired where an event titled "Art, blasphemy and the freedom of expression" was being held in Copenhagen, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 Emergency services gather at the scene following the attack

The area around the venue is under lockdown, reports the BBC’s Malcolm Brabant.

Police have erected cordons and are searching a nearby park, he adds.

Officials say they are hunting for two suspected attackers who fled the scene in a car.

Strict security

The debate, which took place in a cafe, was described on a personal website of Lars Vilks as a talk on whether any limits should be placed on artistic expression or freedom of speech.

A description of the event asked whether artists could “dare” to be blasphemous in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks by Islamist gunmen in Paris last month.

In an indication of the threat faced by the cartoonist, a note was included on the website saying there was always “strict security” whenever the artist spoke in public.

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