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Homeland Security

Somali Axe Attacker Receives 9-Year Sentence

Selah Hennessy | London February 04, 2011

A Somali man has been given a nine year jail sentence in Denmark. He was found guilty of attempting to attack a Danish cartoonist who drew pictures of the Prophet Muhammad.

Mohammed Geele, 29, broke into the home of a Danish cartoonist last year. He was carrying an axe and, according to the cartoonist, was screaming “You must die!”

In 2005, Kurt Westergaard drew a picture of the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban. It was one of a number of caricatures published in Denmark that sparked anger and protest around the world.

During the attack, Westergaard hid in a makeshift panic room and was unhurt. But on Thursday, Geele was found guilty of attempted terrorism and attempted murder. The judge sentenced him Friday to nine years in prison and a fine of just under $2,000.

Roger Middleton, from the London-based research group Chatham House, says Geele’s home country, Somalia, has an increasingly important profile in global terrorism.

"It's become part of this narrative of grievances used to justify jihad globally. So you hear Osama Bin Laden and other senior al-Qaida leaders saying, you know, we must liberate and fight for our brothers in Palestine, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and Somalia. So Somalia has entered that kind of lexicon," Middleton said.

Danish police have said they believe Geele may have links to Somalia’s Islamist group al-Shabab, which itself has links to al-Qaida.

Last year the group claimed responsibility for a deadly bomb attack in Uganda’s capital, Kampala.

But Middleton says it’s important that al-Shabab’s global influence isn’t overstated. He says it’s a small number of individuals involved.

“There is a danger of course - and it's a really serious danger - at's real or perceived of the Somali community in Europe. And actually you end up creating exactly the kind of conditions that make young people go off and kill people or that kind of thing,” Middleton said.

And he notes that some of those involved in Somalia’s most violent incidents have themselves been Europeans. According to the New York based group Human Rights Watch people from the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe are believed to be members of al-Shabab and some have been implicated in attacks inside Somalia.

The Danish judge said Friday that Geele will be expelled from Denmark for life after he serves his nine-year sentence.

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