Diplomatic missions close amid fear of more protests

Story highlights

  • Protesters against film and cartoon set fire to two movie theaters in Peshawar, Pakistan
  • Tunisia bans protests Friday, a week after four people were killed in demonstrations
  • Diplomatic facilities closed in Indonesia and Sudan
  • Teachers led young children in an anti-U.S. protest in Karachi on Thursday

Several diplomatic facilities were shuttered Friday as many braced for intensified protests over the anti-Islam movie "Innocence of Muslims," as well as recently published cartoons in a French publication of a figure resembling the Prophet Mohammed.

Demonstrations have raged for days as many in the Muslim world are angry about the U.S.-made film that mocks Mohammed and about the French cartoon. And some believe that Friday prayers, a time of protest recently in the Middle East and North Africa, could add fuel to the fire.

Demonstrations started early Friday in Pakistan. Developments include:

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Protesters set blaze in Pakistan

Protesters against the film and the cartoon in Peshawar, Pakistan, set fire to two movie theaters Friday morning, killing one person and injuring dozens, officials said.

Firefighters extinguished one blaze in about 90 minutes but were not able to get to the other fire, said Nadir Shah, a fire brigade official.

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    "We were informed by the police that the two cinemas had been set ablaze by rioters, and so we responded immediately," Shah said.

    At least 25 people were injured, three of them critically, said Majid Qureshi, a doctor at a local hospital. A member of the media was also shot in killed in the protest, Qureshi said.

    Peshawar police said four policemen were also injured.

    Crowds of protesters were reported in Islamabad, and CNN affiliate Geo TV reported protests in Rawalpindi and Karachi.

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    Children chant 'Death to America'

    The protests come a day after about 100 small children in Karachi repeated anti-American slogans during a protest in the coastal Pakistani city, a police official said.

    Video showed children repeating an adult voice that said "Death to America" and "Any friend of America is a traitor."

    "Punish the blasphemer," children chanted Thursday. One placard read, "Shut down website of blasphemous film."

    The film reference is to "Innocence of Muslims," which mocks Mohammed as a womanizer, child molester and killer. A 14-minute trailer for the movie was first posted online in July, though it wasn't until this month that it was recognized globally.

    Since September 11, Muslims have staged a wave of protests in more than 20 countries, decrying the film and the nation in which it was privately produced, the United States.

    The children in Karachi -- seemingly between the ages of 6 and 8 -- demonstrated across from the Karachi Press Club, said Ghulam Qadir, a city police official charged with keeping track of all demonstrations at the club.

    The event was not formal or planned, so authorities didn't know ahead of time it would happen, he said. In general, Pakistani parents are not informed about every event organized by a school.

    At least four teachers accompanied the children to the demonstration, Qadir said. There did not appear to be any parents there.

    Facilities close in Indonesia

    The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, U.S. Consulate General in Surabaya, U.S. Consular Agency in Bali and two other facilities will be closed Friday because of the "potential for significant demonstrations that might be held in front of these facilities." officials said in a news statement. There were protests in Indonesia last week.

    About 100 demonstrators gathered last Tuesday near a U.S. diplomatic facility in Medan, Indonesia, the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta said.

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    German Embassy to close in Sudan

    The German Embassy in Sudan's capital city of Khartoum will be closed Friday as authorities anticipate protests over the cartoon published in French magazine Charlie Hebdo, state-run Ashorooq TV reported.

    "Security measures have been tightened at other diplomatic missions abroad," Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said.

    Tunisian authorities ban all demonstrations Friday

    Seeking to avoid a repeat of what happened one week earlier, Tunisia's Interior Ministry banned all demonstrations Friday, the state-run Tunisian News Agency (TAP) reported, citing a statement from the ministry.

    The report said the protest ban is "in accordance with the provisions of the state of emergency" that has been in place since the ouster January of its longtime president, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.

    The statement refers to "calls launched via social networks" to demonstrate over the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. And it comes a week after four protesters died and 49 were wounded during an assault on the U.S. Embassy in the capital of Tunis, TAP previously reported, citing Souad Sadraoui, interim general director of Charles Nicolle Hospital.

    Presidential spokesman Adnene Mansar denounced Charlie Hebdo's publication of the cartoons as a "deliberate insult," adding that "some circles are deliberately seeking to stir up tension in relations binding the Muslim and Western worlds."

    "We should not fall in the trap of provocation, we should rather denounce these acts by peaceful means," Mansar said, according to a TAP report.

    In another TAP report, National Constituent Assembly Speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar said that the bloody September 14 protests "do not reflect the mood of the moderate and tolerant Tunisian people."

    "Political, ideological and religious violence is (no) longer tolerated in present-day Tunisia," Jaafar said in Strasbourg in eastern France, calling abiding by the "rule of law ... an absolute priority."

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        Attacks on U.S. missions

      • A testy exchange erupted between Sen. John McCain and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey during the latter's testimony about September's deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
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      • Children in Benghazi hold up placards reading "No to terrorism" (R) and "yes for stability and security" on January 15.

        Bilal Bettamer wants to save Benghazi from those he calls "extremely dangerous people." But his campaign against the criminal and extremist groups that plague the city has put his life at risk.
      • Protesters near the US Embassy in Cairo.

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      • Image #: 19358881    Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, smiles at his home in Tripoli June 28, 2012. Stevens and three embassy staff were killed late on September 11, 2012, as they rushed away from a consulate building in Benghazi, stormed by al Qaeda-linked gunmen blaming America for a film that they said insulted the Prophet Mohammad. Stevens was trying to leave the consulate building for a safer location as part of an evacuation when gunmen launched an intense attack, apparently forcing security personnel to withdraw. Picture taken June 28, 2012. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori (LIBYA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST OBITUARY)       REUTERS /ESAM OMRAN AL-FETORI /LANDOV

        Three days before the deadly attack in Benghazi, a local security official says he warned U.S. diplomats about deteriorating security.
      • For the latest news on developments in the Middle East and North Africa in Arabic.