Prophet cartoons: France beefs up security at embassies

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Paris, Sept 20: France beefed up security at its embassies across several Muslim countries after weekly satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo published cartoons of Prophet Mohammed on Wednesday. Reports said that Paris has even decided to close several of its embassies, consulates and schools in 20 Muslim countries from Friday, which is a Muslim holiday.

The authorities also closed down its embassy and French school in Tunisia, one of those north African countries where serious protests broke out at the US Embassy last week.

Several countries in north Africa, west and south and south-east Asia witnessed deadly protests against the US and other western countries over a controversial film named 'Innocence of Muslims' that allegedly dishonoured Prophet Mohammed. In Libya, the anti-film protests even led to the death of the US envoy, Chris Stevens.

The Wednesday issue of the magazine featured a cartoon showing an Orthodox Jew pushing a wheelchair-borne turbaned man, said reports. The inside pages reportedly featured other caricatures of the Prophet, including naked pictures. The French authorities fear that the magazine cartoons could lead to more backlashes for the prevalent mood was an angry one over the anti-Islam film.

The French government warned that the magazine content demeaning the Prophet could lead to tensions even as it reiterated France's free speech rights. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said there was no wisdom in pouring oil on the fire. The foreign ministry warned the nation's citizens to move carefully and avoid public gatherings and sensitive buildings and locations.

France is home to the largest Muslim population in western Europe.

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