Muhammad Cartoonist Targeted US Indicts Two for Plot to Attack Danish Newspaper

American law-enforcement authorities have arrested two men charged with preparing terrorist attacks against Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that offended Muslims around the world in 2005 when it published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. The cartoon artist was reportedly also a target.
Jakob Scharf, the head of the Danish intelligence service, says the terror plans were "serious" but that there was no imminent danger of attack.

Jakob Scharf, the head of the Danish intelligence service, says the terror plans were "serious" but that there was no imminent danger of attack.

Foto: ERIK REFNER/ AFP

A 49-year-old US national and a 48-year-old Canadian national are under arrest in Chicago on charges of preparing a terrorist attack against the Jyllands-Posten newspaper and other targets in Denmark. In 2005, the newspaper published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that offended Muslims across the world and sparked violent protests .

Those charged are reported to be David Coleman Headley, 49, and Tahawwur Hussain Rana, 48. The Chicago Tribune  says that Headley is an American citizen who changed his name in 2006 from Daood Gilani. Headley is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts involving murder and maiming outside the United States and another count of conspiracy to provide material support to the conspiracy. In papers filed with the court, FBI officials said the two had met while attending school together in Pakistan.

Rana, who is a Canadian living legally in Chicago, is charged with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to the foreign conspiracy involving Headley and three other individuals.

'Mickey Mouse Project'

The affidavit for their arrest states that, beginning in 2008, Headley and Rana had intense correspondence about what they called the "Mickey Mouse Project" -- or "mmp, for short -- and "the northern project."

Media sources report that Headley was detained at O'Hare International Airport on Oct. 3, where he was leaving for Pakistan via Philadelphia, and has admitted to having received training from Lashkar-e-Taiba, which the Department of Justice's press release describes as "a Pakistan-based terrorist organization." Headley also reportedly acknowledged that the plan called for either attacking Jyllands-Posten buildings or killing both the newspaper's former cultural editor and the cartoonist Kurt Westergaard. In Feb. 2008, Danish police arrested several individuals suspected of being in an unrelated plot to kill Westergaard .

Rana, who runs several companies, including a meat-processing plant specializing in Islamic foods, was arrested at his home on October 18.

"The service sees this case as being very serious," said Jakob Scharf, the head of the Danish Intelligence and Security Service (PET), in a press release. "One of those arrested has an extensive network among leading militant extremists in Pakistan, who not only want to attack Denmark but have also shown previously that they are capable of ruthless terrorist attacks."

According to the US Department of Justice, Headley travelled to Denmark twice this year -- in January and July -- to reconnoitre and select targets. According to an FBI affidavit filed in the case, Headley reported on his activities to Ilyas Kashmiri, an operational chief in a Pakistani-based Harakat-ul Jihad Islami, an organization with links to al-Qaeda.

Rana is scheduled to appear in court for a bond hearing on Wednesday. Headley's bond hearing is scheduled for Dec. 4. The conspiracy charges faced by both men carry a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. The other charges against Headley could also lead to a sentence of life in prison.