The gaze of the world’s media was firmly fixed on Waterford this weekend as a story unfolded of an alleged terrorist plot on Suirside to murder a Swedish cartoonist accused of insulting the Prophet Mohammad.

A Croatian man and a woman from the US had their periods in garda custody extended when they were brought before a special sitting of Waterford District Court yesterday (Thursday) morning. Strict reporting restrictions were imposed by gardaí and no journalists were allowed in the courtroom or even in the court precincts.

The two can now be questioned for a further 72 hours. Their arrests on Tuesday morning were part of an international investigation into alleged death threats against cartoonist Lars Vilks. Five others, three Algerians, a Libyan and a Palestinian, were also arrested on Tuesday morning and they had their periods of detention extended on Wednesday night.

Assassination bounty

The detained people are being held in connection with an alleged plot to kill Mr Vilks over his images of the Prophet Muhammad in a Swedish newspaper that were deemed by some to be insulting to Muslims. After the publication of the cartoon, a web site in Iraq linked to al-Qaeda offered a bounty of over $100,000 for the successful assassination for those responsible for the cartoon’s publication. The FBI in America had alerted Irish authorities about the alleged conspiracy and a number of European police forces were also involved.

In all, seven arrests were made in Cork and Waterford. There were five arrests in Waterford, including one in Tramore. All are being held for questioning under Section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act 2007 and they can be detained for seven days if suspected of being involved in a conspiracy to carry out a killing in another European country.

All the suspects, aged between mid-20s to mid-40s, are living in the country legally and are registered here after seeking asylum. Computers, phones and documents seized during searches at nine premises are being analysed for any evidence of a credible plan to kill Mr Vilks. Garda sources have dismissed speculation that those arrested here are an al-Qaeda cell.