The gunmen were shot dead by police and a security guard was injured outside a provocative contest for cartoon depictions of the Prophet Mohammed on Sunday¬†in a suburb of Dallas.
The¬†event was organised by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), which is operated¬†by controversial blogger and activist Pamela Geller and is listed as an anti-Muslim group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group.
The¬†contest offered a $10,000 prize for a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed.¬†One of the speakers of the event was Geert Wilders, the¬†Dutch politician and an outspoken critic of Islam in Western societies.
“This is a war. This is war on free speech. What are we going to do? Are we going to surrender to these monsters?” Ms¬†Geller¬†wrote on her website. “The war is here.”
Nearly 200 people had been attending the Mohammed Art Exhibit, when, shortly before it was due to finish, they were told of a shooting outside.
As said by¬†Joe Harn, a police spokesman, when the event was ending,¬†the shooters drove to the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland and opened fire at a security officer before being killed by police.¬†The bomb squad has been called in to check¬†their vehicle for explosives.
The gunmen hit a security officer Bruce Joiner¬†in the ankle.¬†He¬†was taken to hospital, but was later released.¬†A police officer shot and killed both gunmen¬†with his service weapon.
A woman at the conference was leaving the building when she said she heard “quick shots” from what she thought was a machine gun:
“Police started running everywhere, they quickly told us to run as fast as we could to get back in the building.”
People attending the event and the ones from nearby buildings were later evacuated.
The representatives of local police said that they had not been able to identify the gunmen yet, their¬†bodies remained by the car while bomb experts checked¬†it for explosives.
Mr.¬†Harn¬†noted¬†that the inspection is “a very slow, tedious operation that goes on”.
Later on Sunday¬†Gregg Abbott, the Governor of Texas, called¬†the shooting “senseless” during his speech. He said that Texas authorities were “actively investigating to determine the cause and scope” of the attack.
According to ABC news, one of the suspects¬†was identified as Elton Simpson, an Arizona man who had been previously investigated on suspicion of terrorism offences.
Furthermore, officials believe that he had¬†posted¬†several Twitter messages before the Sunday’s shooting, including one with the hashtag #texasattack. However, the Twitter account was later suspended.
It is still¬†unclear if the gunmen were specifically targeting the event. Hovewer, the publication of cartoons of the Prophet¬†has triggered violence in the past.
Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten’s publication of a series of Mohammed drawings in September 2005 led to the burning of the Danish flag and attacks on Danish embassies around the Middle East.
In 2010 cartoonist Kurt Westergaard was attacked at his home by a Somali Muslim.
This January Paris magazine Charlie Hebdo, which repeatedly published Mohammed cartoons, was attacked by armed gunmen who killed 12 people.