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French Muhammad Cartoons: Tunisia Bans Protests, Violence

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Islamic Tunisian protesters step on a U.S. flag during a protest outside the outside the U.S. embassy in Tunis, as part of widespread anger across the Muslim world about a film ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Hassene Dridi)
Islamic Tunisian protesters step on a U.S. flag during a protest outside the outside the U.S. embassy in Tunis, as part of widespread anger across the Muslim world about a film ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Hassene Dridi)

TUNIS, Tunisia -- Tunisia's government has banned any protests Friday against a French satirical weekly's publication of lewd, crude caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

Interior Minister Ali Larayedh told Tunisian radio that authorities sensed that some groups were planning to pillage and carry out violence after weekly communal prayers at mosques Friday.

"To repel any risk and in the interest of preserving the security of people, property and our foreign guests, we have decided to forbid any demonstration in the country," the minister told Shems FM.

Wednesday's publication of the cartoons by Charlie Hebdo weekly has raised concerns that French interests could face violent protests like the ones targeting the U.S. over an amateur video produced in California that mocked Muhammad.

The government of France – a former colonial ruler in Tunisia – has ordered its embassies and other official sites in about 20 countries across the Muslim world closed Friday as a precaution. Paris has already shut its embassy and a French school in Tunis, the site of a deadly protest last week at the U.S. Embassy over the amateurish video entitled "Innocence of Muslims."

Calls to protest in Tunisia against the caricatures have turned up in social media.

The governing, moderate Islamist party Ennahda expressed support for the right to peaceful protest, while the office of President Moncef Marzouki has appealed to Tunisians "not to fall into the trap of provocation by those who want to cause trouble in Muslim countries."

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