Vilks was largely unknown outside Sweden before 2007, when he drew a sketch of Muhammad with a dog’s body

 Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who had lived under police protection since making a sketch of the Prophet Muhammad with a dog’s body in 2007, died in a weekend car crash along with two police bodyguards, police said Monday. He was 75.

Vilks and two plainclothes officers were killed in a head-on crash with a truck on Sunday afternoon, said Carina Persson, the police chief for southern Sweden. All three died on the spot. The 45-year-old truck driver was flown to a hospital with serious injuries.

Persson said the police car, which was being driven by one of the bodyguards, had left Stockholm and was heading south when it veered into the path of the truck. Both vehicles then burst into flames. The accident occurred near Markaryd, 100 kilometers (60 miles) northeast of Malmo, Sweden’s third-largest city.

“There is nothing else for now that indicates that it was something else but a traffic accident,” Persson told a press conference.

Sweden’s top police chief, Anders Thornberg, said an investigation would take place, but was expected “to take a relatively long time.”

Sweden’s Culture Minister Amanda Lind called it “an extremely tragic traffic accident.”

Vilks was largely unknown outside Sweden before 2007, when 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 favorable, 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.

Since that time, Vilks was forced to live under police protection, “due to the fact that he made use of his freedom of expression and his artistic freedom,” Lind said Monday.

Over the years he continued to face death threats.

In 2014, a woman from Pennsylvania pleaded guilty in a plot to kill him.

The following year, a free-speech seminar that Vilks attended in Copenhagen, Denmark, was attacked by a lone gunman who killed a Danish film director and wounded three police officers.

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