Lars Vilks, the Swedish artist who sketched the Prophet Muhammad’s head on a dog’s body, has died in a traffic accident. No sign of foul play has been detected by police officials.
According to reports, Vilks who was under police protection following various threats was traveling in a civilian police vehicle which collided with a truck near the town of Markaryd in southern Sweden.
His cartoon, published in 2007, offended Muslims worldwide who regard visual representation of the Prophet as blasphemous. It came a year after a Danish newspaper published cartoons of the Prophet. Al-Qaeda in Iraq even offered a $100,000 (£73,692) reward for his murder.
While it is unclear how the collision occurred, a statement from police confirmed no outsiders were involved in the incident.
“This is being investigated like any other road accident. Because two policemen were involved, an investigation has been assigned to a special section of the prosecutor’s office,” a police spokesperson told news agency AFP, adding that there was no suspicion of foul play.
One eyewitness told the Aftonbladet newspaper that the car Vilks was thought to be in seemed to lose control and came over to his side of the motorway at high speed. The truck in front did not have time to swerve and then they collided with a loud bang at “incredible speed”, he told the newspaper.
Stefan Sinteus, chief of the South Sweden regional investigation unit, told a press conference that officers were attempting to determine why the car had swerved off the road.
“We don’t know yet the reason why the bodyguard car was on the wrong side of the road,” he said. “But we’re talking to witnesses, we have found remnants of tyres on the E4 road before the accident so we’re looking into the possibility that it could have been a tyre explosion or something similar.”
Police officials also noted no threats were made against him recently.