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Two men shot dead at US Mohammed cartoon event

The convention was attended by controversial Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders.

Updated 5.08pm

FEDERAL AGENTS SEARCHED an apartment in Phoenix, the United States, as part of an investigation into a shooting outside a suburban Dallas venue hosting a provocative contest for Prophet Muhammad cartoons, the FBI confirmed Monday.

Police officers shot and killed two gunmen who opened fire on a security officer outside the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland on Sunday night. The security officer was wounded in the shooting.

While no immediate claim of responsibility was made, similar depictions of the Prophet Mohammed prompted a shooting at French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in January that killed 12.

The right-wing American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) organised the event in a suburb of Dallas, featuring Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who has been outspoken against Muslims and is targeted by radical groups.

Associated Press / YouTube

Garland officer Joe Harn says the men had opened fire with assault rifles, and that one officer had fatally shot both gunmen. Harn also said investigators searched the men’s car and detonated several suspicious items, but no bombs were found in the vehicle.

The FBI said the Phoenix residence was being searched for indications of what prompted the attack, and FBI spokeswoman Katherine Chaumont said no other locations in Phoenix are being investigated.

A federal law enforcement official has identified one of the suspects in the shooting as Elton Simpson. The official, who was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation by name and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity, said investigators were searching Simpson’s property in connection with the case.

Court documents show a man by the name of Elton Simpson was convicted in 2011 in federal court in Phoenix of making a false statement by lying to an FBI agent in January 2010 about whether he had discussed traveling to Somalia. According to the documents, Simpson had discussed with an FBI informant a desire to travel to Somalia, but denied to an FBI agent that he’d had any such discussions.

Prophet Cartoon Contest Shooting Garland Police spokesperson Joe Harn addresses media about the shooting. AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Local police said the shootout lasted “seconds,” and organizers said they had prepared extra security for the event due to the general risk of an attack.

Wilders has also long been targeted by Islamists because of his extreme views on Islam.

“I am shocked. I just spoke for half an hour about the cartoons, Islam and freedom of speech and I had just left the premises,” Wilder told AFP in an email.

Germany Anti-Islam Rally Geert Wilders Jens Meyer / AP/Press Association Images Jens Meyer / AP/Press Association Images / AP/Press Association Images

“This is an attack on the liberties of all of us!” Wilders wrote, adding: “I hope it is not connected to death list (of) Al-Qaeda.” He added that he was safe with police.

The Dutch politician said he is returning to the Netherlands today but would come back to the United States next week for another speaking engagement.

Prophet Cartoon Contest Shooting AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Many Muslims find depictions of the Prophet Mohammed offensive and such cartoons have triggered violent protests. The Danish daily Jyllands-Posten published 12 satirical cartoons in 2005, triggering deadly protests in some Muslim countries.

Cartoon images of the Prophet Mohammed were also published in French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, where Islamist gunmen killed 12 people in January.

The identities of Sunday’s shooters has yet to be confirmed, but the SITE Intelligence Group reported that an Islamic State (IS) fighter claimed on Twitter that the shooting was carried out by two pro-IS individuals.

In a series of tweets and links, a jihadist named as Abu Hussain AlBritani, which SITE said was British IS fighter Junaid Hussain, claimed that “2 of our brothers just opened fire” at the Prophet Muhammad exhibition in Texas.

“They Thought They Was Safe In Texas From The Soldiers of The Islamic State,” added the tweet.

About 200 people were inside the event, said local police spokesman Police spokesman Joe Harn.

Prophet Cartoon Contest Shooting Crowds at the convention. AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

AFDI, criticised for promoting anti-Islamic views, offered a $10,000 prize for the winner of the cartoon contest that was billed as a “free speech” event.

AFDI co-founder and political activist Pamela Geller called the shootings a “war on free speech.”

“What are we going to do? Are we going to surrender to these monsters?” she wrote on her website.

“The war is here.”

Speaking to Fox News, she added: “The idea we are going to bridge our freedom, our most basic inalienable right in order to not offend savages is egregious, it is outrageous.

© AFP, 2015, with reporting by The Associated Press. Originally published 7.56am.

Read: TD says garda helicopter causing ‘noise pollution’ in Dublin at night>

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