Three terror suspects who were arrested in an alleged al-Qaida plot in Norway were likely planning an attack against a Danish newspaper that caricatured the Prophet Muhammad, Norwegian and Danish police said Tuesday.
The intelligence branch of Denmark's police, PET, said the suspects were believed to be planning an attack either against the Jyllands-Posten newspaper directly or against people in Denmark linked to the 12 drawings that sparked outrage in Muslim countries in 2006.
The three men were arrested July 8 in what U.S. and Norwegian officials believe was a plot linked to the same Pakistan-based al-Qaida planners behind thwarted schemes to blow up New York's subway and a British shopping mall.
Siv Alsen, spokeswoman at the Norwegian Police Security Service, told The Associated Press that one of the suspects, 37-year-old Iraqi Kurd Shawan Sadek Saeed Bujak Bujak, had disclosed the plot to investigators.
"We can confirm that he has confessed and explained about his role in planning terror. He was planning this together with the two others arrested," Alsen said. "The information we got indicates that it (Jyllands-Posten) was the target."
However, the lawyer of suspected ringleader Mikael Davud said later Tuesday that his client had planned a bomb attack against the Chinese embassy in Oslo.
The 39-year-old Uighur, who came to Norway in 1999, wanted revenge because Chinese authorities had killed several of his friends and relatives, his lawyer Carl Konow Rieber-Mohn said.
He said Davud had used the two other suspects to obtain ingredients to make the bomb, but said he was far away from realizing the plan and that the other two were not aware of the target.
Davud was aware of Bujak's confession when he made the statement, but had not been confronted with suspicions that the attack was planned against Jyllands-Posten, Rieber-Mohn added.
The third suspect in the case is 31-year-old Uzbek national David Jakobsen. His lawyer has previously said he intends to plead innocent to any terrorism charges.
Brynjar Meling, Bujak's defense lawyer, confirmed to The Associated Press that his client had admitted to being involved in the plot.
"He says that it's important as a Muslim to tell the truth," Meling said. "It is important that the matter doesn't become bigger than it already is and damage Muslims more than it already has done."
Meling said Bujak told investigators the suspects had dropped their plans even before they were arrested and that Bujak wasn't linked to al-Qaida in any way. Meling declined to comment on whether Jyllands-Posten was the target.
An AP investigation shows that authorities learned early on about the alleged cell by intercepting e-mails from an al-Qaida operative in Pakistan.
It was the second time this month that Scandinavian police said the Danish newspaper was the target of planned attacks.
On Sept. 10, a Chechen boxer was injured in a small explosion at a Copenhagen hotel while preparing a letter bomb, likely intended for the Jyllands-Posten, Danish police said.
PET chief Jakob Scharf said Tuesday that the two cases, which were not believed to be related, "illustrate that there is a priority among militant Islamists to carry out acts of terror against Denmark and symbols connected" to the cartoons.
Islamic law generally opposes any depiction of the prophet, even favorable, for fear it could lead to idolatry.
Intelligence officials say Denmark remains in the cross-hairs of Islamic terrorists because of the cartoons, which were first published by Jyllands-Posten five years ago, and reprinted by a range of Western papers in early 2006, triggering fiery protests from Morocco to Indonesia.
A Somali man is facing terror charges after police say he broke into the home of one of the cartoonists armed with a knife and ax. The cartoonist was unharmed.
Jyllands-Posten's headquarters in Aarhus, western Denmark, is protected by a metal fence and round-the-clock security guards. All mail is scanned before being opened.
"We feel safe about the security measures that surround us," Lars Munch, managing director of the media group that owns Jyllands-Posten, told AP.
Amland reported from Oslo, Norway.