Two attackers killed outside Mohammed cartoon contest in Texas

Texas shooting

SWAT outside scene of the attack. (Gregory Castillo/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

Two men, apparently Islamic terrorists, were killed in Texas after violently attacking an event defending freedom of speech. 

By: AP and World Israel News Staff

In a violent attack seemingly motivated by radical Islam, two men opened fire Sunday evening at an event in Texas defending freedom of speech.

As a cartoon contest for the best depiction of the Muslim prophet Mohammed was scheduled to end, the men drove to the event, located at the Curtis Culwell Center in the Dallas suburb of Garland, and began shooting at a security officer, according to a City of Garland statement. Garland police officers returned fire, killing the attackers.

The Curtis Culwell Center and surrounding businesses were evacuated after the attack, and police blocked off a large area around the center. There was a heavy police presence as helicopters circled overhead while a bomb squad searched the vehicle driven by the assailants.

The shooters have not yet been identified, Officer Joe Harn, a spokesman for the Garland Police Department, said at a news conference. However, chatter on social media indicates that they were Muslims.

Police were unaware of any ongoing threat and had not received any credible warnings before the event, Harn said.

Neither the FBI office in Washington, D.C., nor the Dallas office had any immediate comment.

‘This is war. Are we going to surrender?’

The event inside, a contest hosted by political activist Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), would award $10,000 for the best cartoon depicting Mohammed.

According to mainstream Islamic tradition, any physical depiction of the Prophet Mohammad — even a respectful one — is considered blasphemous, and such drawings have sparked violence around the world. In January, for example, two Muslim terrorists massacred 12 cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo magazine headquarters in Paris.

Another deadly shooting occurred the following month at a free speech event in Copenhagen featuring an artist who had caricatured the prophet.

The security officer who was shot and wounded in the ankle in Texas, identified as Bruce Joiner, was treated at a local hospital for injuries and released Sunday night.

After the shooting, about 75 attendees at the contest were escorted by authorities to another room in the conference center. They were then taken to a separate location, where an Associated Press reporter was told they could not leave until FBI agents arrived to question them.

Johnny Roby of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was at the conference. He told AP that he was outside the building when he heard about 20 shots that appeared to be coming from the direction of a passing car.

Roby then heard two single shots and heard officers yelling that they had the car before he was sent inside the building along with everyone else who was there.

Artist Bosh Fawstin, (L), is presented with a check by Wilders (C) and Geller. (Gregory Castillo/AP)

Artist Bosh Fawstin (L), the winner, is presented with a check by Wilders (C) and Geller. (Gregory Castillo/AP)

Geller, president of AFDI, told AP before the event that she had planned the contest in order to defend free speech in response to violence over drawings of Mohammed. Although it remained unclear for several hours after the shooting whether it was related to contest, Geller said on Sunday night that the violence proved just how “needed our event really was.”

“This is a war. This is war on free speech. What are we going to do? Are we going to surrender to these monsters?” Geller posted on her site.

The event featured speeches by Geller and Geert Wilders, a Dutch lawmaker known for his outspoken criticism of radical Islam. Wilders told the audience that it was no coincidence that the attack occurred specifically in Texas. “It is here that, three months ago, shortly after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Islamic activists convened to demand that free speech be curtailed. They want to prohibit cartoons, books and films which they find insulting,” he said.

Wilders received several standing ovations as he quoted former President Ronald Reagan and Texas founding father Sam Houston, who defended liberty and preached not to submit to oppression.

“Mohammed fought and terrorized people with the swords. Today, here in Garland, we fight Mohammed and his followers with the pen. And the pen, the drawings, will prove mightier than the sword,” Wilders declared.

Geller’s group is known for mounting a campaign against the building of an Islamic center blocks from the World Trade Center site.