Protesters target France over obscene cartoons


France was swept up Thursday in the wave of anger washing over the Muslim world as protesters in Afghanistan and Iran denounced a magazine’s publication of blasphemous cartoons.
Chanting “Death to France! Death to America!”, hundreds demonstrated in the Afghan capital Kabul against the cartoons and a US-made anti-Islam film that has sparked widespread outrage.
In Tehran, up to 100 people protested in front of France’s embassy, chanting “Death to France!” as dozens of police deployed around the compound prevented the crowd from approaching.
France has been bracing for a backlash following Wednesday’s publication of the cartoons by satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.
In anticipation of potential protests on Friday, Paris said it would shutter its diplomatic missions, cultural centers and French schools in around 20 Muslim countries.
More than 30 people have been killed in attacks and violent protests linked to the film “Innocence of Muslims”, including 12 people who died in an attack by a female suicide bomber in Afghanistan and four Americans, among them the US ambassador, killed at the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Protests against the film took place in many countries on Wednesday, including in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Sri Lanka.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has called for protests all week in Lebanon and major demonstrations are expected in Pakistan on Friday, where the government has declared a national holiday in honor of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).
Washington has also moved to boost security amid the protests, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying the United States was taking “aggressive steps” to protect diplomatic missions worldwide.
The US embassy in Jakarta said all its diplomatic missions in Indonesia would be closed Friday because of “the potential for significant demonstrations”.
Singapore on Thursday joined countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan that have blocked access to YouTube following the site’s release of the clip of the film. In France, police said Thursday they had forbidden a demonstration planned for Saturday in front of Paris’s Grand Mosque.
The interior ministry has said it will deny all requests for permits to protest the film after a demonstration last weekend near the US embassy in Paris turned violent. Leaders of France’s Muslim community — the largest in western Europe — said an appeal for calm would be read in mosques across the country on Friday but also condemned Charlie Hebdo for publishing “insulting” images.