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French mission, schools close in Tunisia over security fears

As part of increased security measures following a French newspaper's publication of naked cartoons of Prophet Mohammed, French schools in Tunisia are set to close for 5 days

AFP , Wednesday 19 Sep 2012
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Views: 1343

French schools in Tunisia will close from Wednesday until Monday, the embassy said, adding that it has requested extra security, after a French weekly published naked cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

"The French school network and Tunisia's French Institute will be closed from midday on Wednesday... until Monday morning," the embassy said.

"The embassy has asked the relevant Tunisian authorities to strengthen security around its sites," it said, adding that the mission would stay closed on Friday, when Islamist protests following weekly prayers are common.

Unlike most Arab countries, Tunisia follows the Western weekend, meaning that Thursday and Friday are normal working days.

"It's a preventative measure. We have not received any direct threats," an embassy source told AFP.

There are an estimated 30,000 French citizens living in Tunisia, a former colony with close ties to France, and around 3,000 French children enrolled in Tunisian schools.

Earlier the French foreign ministry in Paris said France would close its embassies and schools in around 20 countries on Friday because of fears of being targeted by angry Muslim protesters after the publication of the cartoons.

Police were deployed outside the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine which printed a series of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed on Wednesday.

The left-wing, libertarian publication's offices were firebombed last year after it published an edition "guest-edited" by the Prophet that it called Sharia Hebdo.

Wednesday's publication of the controversial images comes against a background of violent protests in the Muslim world over a US-made film that mocks Islam, which first erupted early last week.

Four people were killed and dozens wounded on Friday during demonstration by hardline Salafists outside the US embassy in Tunis, with protesters hurling petrol bombs and storming the mission, while police fired live rounds and tear gas.

The US ambassador Jaco Walles was to meet Tunisian premier Hamadi Jebali Wednesday, amid ongoing criticism of the Tunisian security forces over their handling of last Friday's protests and after the evacuation of non-essential US embassy staff.

Also on Wednesday, Tunisia's interim parliament the National Constituent Assembly is due to question the government about its response to the unrest on Friday, with numerous opposition MPs calling for Interior Minister Ali Larayedh to quit.

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