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Source: Suspect in Copenhagen attacks just out of jail

Karl Ritter
Associated Press

Copenhagen, Denmark — The Danish gunman who attacked a free-speech seminar and a synagogue in Copenhagen was released about two weeks ago from a jail where he may have been radicalized while serving time for a vicious stabbing.

As Denmark mourned the two victims, these and other troubling details emerged Monday about Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein’s path to the country’s worst terror spree in decades.

El-Hussein was arrested 15 months ago in a vicious knife attack on a train passenger, and while he was awaiting trial, a change in his behavior last summer set off enough “alarm bells” for jail authorities to alert PET, Denmark’s counter-terror agency, a source close to the investigation told AP.

Such warnings usually set in motion counter-radicalization efforts, such as counseling in jail. It wasn’t immediately clear how aware the court was of this issue before El-Hussein was convicted of a lesser charge.

Sentenced to the time he had already served, he was released about two weeks ago, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity because police haven’t officially identified the gunman.

“We are working on finding out what has happened,” PET spokeswoman Lotte Holmstrup said Monday.

The agency’s director, Jens Madsen, also wouldn’t elaborate, but he confirmed Sunday that the agency had been aware of the gunman, and that El-Hussein may have been inspired by last month’s attacks by Islamic extremists in Paris that killed 17.

The 22-year-old opened fire at a cultural center and a synagogue — targets that resembled the Paris attackers’ rampage at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper and a Jewish grocery store — before he was killed in a gun battle with a SWAT team early Sunday. His victims included a Danish documentary filmmaker and a Jewish security guard; five police officers were wounded.