Swedish artist under threat is believed to have died in traffic accident


STOCKHOLM (AP) – Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who had lived under police protection since his 2007 sketch of the Prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog received death threats, died on Sunday of a traffic accident, Swedish media reported.

The accident allegedly involved a truck colliding with a civilian police car in which Lars Vilks and his police protection were traveling, media reported.

Swedish news agency TT said police confirmed Vilks, 75, was traveling in the car with two police officers, and Dagens Nyheter newspaper said the artist’s partner confirmed his death.

The cause of the accident was under investigation.

Vilks was largely unknown outside of Sweden before his drawing of Muhammad. At home, he was best known for building a driftwood sculpture in a nature reserve in southern Sweden without permission, sparking a long legal battle. He was fined, but the seaside sculpture – a jumble of wood nailed together chaotically – attracts tens of thousands of visitors a year.

Vilks’ life changed dramatically 13 years ago after he drew a sketch of Muhammad with the body of a dog. Dogs are considered unclean by conservative Muslims, and Islamic law generally opposes any portrayal of the prophet, even favorable, lest it lead to idolatry.

Al-Qaida has put a price on Vilks’ head. In 2010, two men tried to burn down his house in southern Sweden. Last year, a Pennsylvania woman pleaded guilty to a plot to attempt to kill him.

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