The Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who had lived under police protection since his 2007 sketch of the Prophet Muhammad with a dog’s body brought death threats, died from a traffic incident Sunday, Swedish news media reported.
The incident reportedly involved a truck colliding with a civilian police car in which Lars Vilks and his police protection were travelling, news media said.
The Swedish news agency TT said police had confirmed that Vilks, 75, was travelling in the car with two police officers, and the newspaper Dagens Nyheter said the artist’s partner confirmed his death.
The cause of the collision was under investigation.
Vilks was largely unknown outside Sweden before his Muhammad drawing. At home, he was best known for building a sculpture made of driftwood in a nature reserve in southern Sweden without permission, triggering a lengthy legal battle. He was fined, but the seaside sculpture – a jumble of wood nailed together in chaotic fashion – draws tens of thousands of visitors a year.
Vilks’ life changed radically 13 years ago after he drew a sketch of Muhammad with a dog’s body. Dogs are considered unclean by conservative Muslims, and Islamic law generally opposes any depiction of the prophet, even favourable, for fear it could lead to idolatry.
Al-Qaida put a bounty on Vilks’ head. In 2010, two men tried to burn down his house in southern Sweden. Last year, a woman from Pennsylvania pleaded guilty in a plot to try to kill him.