Swedish artist Lars Vilks died in a traffic accident on Sunday at the age of 75, according to Swedish news media reports. The controversial cartoonist received death threats after sketching Prophet Muhammad with a dog’s body in 2007 and was living under police protection since then.
A truck collided with a civilian police car in which Vilks and his police protection were travelling, according to reports.
While a Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter said the artist's partner confirmed his death, the news agency TT said police had confirmed that Vilks, 75, was travelling in the car with two police officers.
However, the cause of the accident was still under investigation.
But, who was Lars Vilks?
Before his Muhammad artwork, Vilks was largely unknown outside of Sweden. He was famous in his own country for erecting a driftwood sculpture without authorisation in a nature reserve in southern Sweden, resulting in a protracted court fight. Despite the fact that he was fined, the seashore artwork — a tangle of wood nailed together in a haphazard manner – attracts tens of thousands of tourists each year.
However, Vilks' life was turned upside down 13 years ago when he drew a picture of Muhammad on a dog's corpse. Conservative Muslims consider dogs to be filthy, and Islamic law prohibits any representation of the prophet, even if it is favourable, for fear of idolatry.
The Muslim militant group 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.
Shortly afterwards, al-Qaeda in Iraq offered a $100,000 (£73,692) reward for his murder.
Vilks was present in a discussion on free speech in Copenhagen in 2015, which was targeted in a gun assault. He stated that he was most likely the intended target of the attack, which resulted in the death of a film director.
However, authorities confirmed on Monday that no new threats had been made against him recently.
Although he is most famous for his sketch of Muhammad as a dog, Vilks was an artist and activist who often worked with paint or created installations.
With inputs from the Associated Press