Danish embassy staff removed after ‘imminent’ threat

Copenhagen | April 24, 2008


DENMARK has moved staff from its embassies in Algeria and Afghanistan to secret safe locations because of an imminent threat, Foreign Ministry officials say.

The threats were “so concrete” action had to be taken, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Erik Laursen.

They are believed to be related to the republication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed wearing a bomb in his turban. It was one of 12 drawings of the Prophet that sparked riots in the Muslim world in 2006 after originally being printed in a Danish newspaper in 2005.

Embassy employees in Algiers were relocated a few days ago, while those in Kabul were moved on Wednesday. They continue to work remotely, Mr Laursen said.

The Danish Security and Intelligence Service earlier this month warned of an aggravated terror threat level against Danish interests in North Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

It said the threat level had sharpened since Danish newspapers reprinted earlier this year a cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammed as a protest over a plot to murder the cartoonist.

In an audio recording posted on a militant website on March 19, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden warned of a “severe” reaction against Europe over the reprinting of the cartoon.

“There was a change in the security situation and we decided that it was necessary due to the situation locally,” Mr Laursen said.

He said the decision was based on new intelligence, but did not elaborate.

It is not known how long staff will remain at their new locations.

Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said staff at other Danish embassies could also be relocated in light of the bin Laden warning.

“There has been a general threat from al-Qaeda which means that their cells or people who sympathise with them around the world will try to see where they can fulfill al-Qaeda’s desires,” Mr Moeller said.

“Therefore I can certainly not say that they are the last two embassies (to be evacuated).”