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France heightens security in embassies across 20 countries ahead of publication of Prophet Mohammed cartoons

Paris, Sept. 19 (ANI): France will close its embassies and schools in around 20 countries on Friday because of fears of a hostile reaction to a magazine’s publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, the foreign ministry said.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced that he had ordered special security measures ‘in all the countries where this could pose a problem’.

According to the Telegraph, Fabius admitted that he was ‘concerned’ by the potential for a backlash to satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo’s printing of a series of cartoons featuring the Prophet Mohammed at a time when violent protests have engulfed the Muslim world over an anti-Islam film.

The crudely-made US film is the main subject of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons, but the sketches are open to wide interpretation.

According to the report, the cover of Charlie Hebdo shows a Muslim in a wheelchair being pushed by an Orthodox Jew under the title ‘Intouchables 2′, referring to an award-winning French film about a poor black man who helps an aristocratic quadriplegic.

Another cartoon on the back page of the weekly magazine shows the prophet re-enacting a scene from a Brigitte Bardot movie.

Charlie Hebdo’s website crashed on Wednesday after being bombarded with comments that ranged from hate mail to approbation.

The magazine’s editor, originally a cartoonist who uses the name Charb, denied he was being deliberately provocative at a delicate time.

“The freedom of the press, is that a provocation?” he said, adding: “I’m not asking strict Muslims to read Charlie Hebdo, just like I wouldn’t go to a mosque to listen to speeches that go against everything I believe.”

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said anyone offended by cartoons could take the matter to the courts after expressing his ‘disapproval of all excesses’, the report added. (ANI)