Controversial filmmaker Theo van Gogh killed

Controversial Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, whose films are critical of the Islamic faith, was killed in Amsterdam Tuesday.

Thousands of Dutch citizens gathered in Amsterdam's city centre Tuesday evening to denounce the murder of controversial Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, which people are calling an attack on free speech.

The filmmaker had received death threats after the TV broadcast of his film, which portrays violent treatment of women in Muslim society. He was shot and stabbed outside of a government building Tuesday.

Police said a 26-year-old suspect killed Van Gogh and left a note on his body. Afterwards, the suspect fled to a nearby park and, following a shootout with officers, was arrested, said police spokesperson Eric Vermeulen.

Both the suspect, a man of dual Dutch-Moroccan citizenship, and an officer suffered minor injuries but "they were conscious" when taken to hospital, Vermeulen said.

Muslim groups have widely condemned those responsible for the killing of the 47-year-old filmmaker, who was the great grandson of Theo van Gogh, brother of the famous Dutch painter Vincent.

Following the August screening of his English-language TV movie Submission, van Gogh had received death threats and was temporarily under police protection.

Submission tells the fictional story of a Muslim woman, trapped in a violent marriage, who is raped by a relative and then punished for adultery. It also includes footage of female bodies with text from the Qur'an painted on them.

Van Gogh recently dismissed the death threats, saying in a radio interview that his movie is the best protection he has.

The work was scripted by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born, right-wing member of Dutch parliament who calls herself an "ex-Muslim" and often criticizes Islamic customs. Ali had also been placed under police protection.

The killing of Van Gogh, who also wrote newspaper and internet columns on the subject of Islam, recalls the 2002 assassination of Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn, who polarized citizens with his anti-immigration views. He was shot and killed on May 6, days before Dutch national elections.

Van Gogh's next film, 06-05, deals with Fortuyn's assassination and is scheduled for internet release in December.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende appealed for calm and urged people not to jump to conclusions.

"Nothing is known about the motive," he said. "I want to call on everyone not to jump to far-reaching conclusions. The facts must first be carefully weighed so let's allow the investigators to do their jobs."

Though the filmmaker had "outspoken opinions," Balkenende said, "it would be unacceptable if a difference of opinion led to this brutal murder."