LONDON — Scandinavian authorities thwarted what they describe as a terrorist attack in Denmark targeting the newspaper that published the infamous caricatures of the prophet Mohammed, arresting five suspected Islamic militants Wednesday.
According to a statement published by the Danish spy agency PET, the suspected militants' target was the Copenhagen offices of Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper that in 2005 published cartoons lampooning Mohammed, who founded the Islamic religion. The cartoons prompted an international uproar.
Jakob Scharf, head of PET, described the suspects as "militant Islamists" with "connections to international terror networks."
At a joint news conference held in Copenhagen on Wednesday by Danish and Swedish intelligence, Scharf said the planned attack had been imminent.
"The attack would be carried out before Jan. 1 and one would have then entered the newspaper and using the machine gun, (killed) as many as possible," he said.
The alleged plot underscores what security officials see as a rising threat by Islamic extremists against Scandinavian countries that once considered themselves unlikely targets.
Both Sweden and Denmark have drawn the ire of Islamic extremists after cartoonists published what many Muslims considered demeaning caricatures of Mohammed.
Kevin McGwin, managing editor of another Danish newspaper, the Copenhagen Post, told Al-Jazeera news agency that the latest incident was the seventh attack or threat against the Jyllands-Posten building or someone connected to the newspaper since 2008.
Four of the five arrested were found in apartments in Greve, 12 miles from the Danish capital, Copenhagen, and the Copenhagen suburb of Herlev, according to PET's statement.
A fifth suspect was arrested in Stockholm, the Swedish capital.
The arrested people have been under close scrutiny by SAPO, according to Swedish intelligence chief Anders Danielsson, who spoke at the news conference.
"A few months ago we got in touch with our Danish colleagues and decided that we would make a joint action," he said.
Some of the members of the militant group traveled to Denmark on Tuesday night, according to the PET statement. The men were under surveillance during the entire trip, Danielsson said.
"We knew that there were weapons in the car," he said.