The leader of al-Qaida in Iraq offered money for the murder of a Swedish cartoonist who recently produced images deemed insulting to Islam, in a statement carried by Islamist websites today.
He also promised a new offensive in Iraq during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
In a half hour audio file entitled “They plotted yet God too was plotting,” Abu Omar al-Baghdadi also named the other insurgent groups in Iraq al Qaida was fighting and promised new attacks, particular against the minority Yazidi sect that was recently devastated by massive car bombs.
“We are calling for the assassination of cartoonist Lars Vilks who dared insult our Prophet, peace be upon him, and we announce a reward during this generous month of Ramadan of US$100,000 (€36,000) for the one who kills this criminal,” the transcript on the website said.
Al-Baghdadi upped the reward to US$150,000 (€54,000) if Vilks was “slaughtered like a lamb” and offered US$50,000 (€18,000) for the head of the editor of Nerikes Allehanda, the Swedish paper that printed Vilks’ cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad with a dog’s body on August 19.
Aside from a few scattered protests and condemnations by Muslim countries, the reaction to the cartoon has been muted, in contrast to the violent demonstrations and harsh outcry accompanying similar images that appeared in a Danish paper last year.
Diplomats from 22 countries, including Iran, Iraq and Syria, have met Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik last to discuss the angry reactions to the sketch, and had “very good dialogue,” an official said at the time.