Police tell threatened Swedish artist to leave home

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STOCKHOLM, Sep 17 (Reuters) A Swedish artist threatened with death over his drawing of Islam's Prophet Mohammad has been told by police he is no longer safe living at home.

Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, leader of the self-styled Islamic State in Iraq, offered up to 150,000 dollars on Saturday for the murder of artist Lars Vilks for drawing the head of the Prophet on the body of a dog.

''I can't live here,'' Vilks told Reuters by phone. ''SAPO (Sweden's security service) have judged that it (the threat) is very serious.'' He was allowed to go home and collect some things but it may be a long time before he is able to return again, he said.

''We have had contact with him (Vilks) and together with him are taking the decisions that are necessary,'' a police spokesman said.

In an audiotape posted on the Internet, Baghdadi offered a lower bounty for the death of the editor of daily Nerikes Allehanda, which published the drawing last month in what it called a defence of free speech.

Top Swedish firms such as truck maker Volvo, mobile network builder Ericsson and retailer Ikea were also threatened unless an apology was forthcoming for the drawing.

The threats against Vilks and the newspaper mirror a crisis in Denmark last year.

Cartoons published in a Danish paper and reprinted around the world sparked riots in the Middle East, Asia and Africa in which at least 50 people died, and attacks against Danish embassies and a boycott of Danish goods.

REUTERS AM ND2055

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