Paris - A French magazine is set to increase Muslim ire by printing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad on Wednesday a day after 12 died in an Afghan suicide bombing, the deadliest attack linked to an anti-Islamic film.
A female suicide bomber killed 12 people in Afghanistan on Tuesday in the deadliest single attack attributed to the controversial film which has sparked furious protests across the Muslim world.
The deaths raised to over 30 the toll from incidents linked to the trailer for “Innocence of Muslims,” a film produced by extremist Christians in the United States that depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a thuggish womaniser.
After a week that has seen protests in at least 20 countries, there were fears that the wave of anger in the Islamic world could hit harder in Europe as it emerged that French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo was planning to publish cartoons caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad in its Wednesday edition.
Charlie Hebdo is no stranger to controversy over its handling of the issues relating to Islam.
Last year it published an edition “guest-edited” by the Prophet Muhammad that it called Sharia Hebdo. The magazine's offices in Paris were subsequently fire-bombed.
Charlie Hebdo's latest move was greeted with immediate calls from political and religious leaders to avoid inflaming the situation.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault issued a statement expressing his “disapproval of all excesses”.
The magazine's editor, originally a cartoonist who uses the name Charb, said the images would “shock those who will want to be shocked”.
Dalil Boubakeur, the senior cleric at Paris's biggest mosque, appealed for France's Muslims to remain calm.
President Barack Obama said Tuesday he expected governments in the Muslim world to protect American diplomats, despite their revulsion at a film made on US soil deemed offensive to their faith.
“The message we have to send to the Muslim world is that we expect you to work with us, to keep our people safe,” Obama said during a taping of the “Late Show with David Letterman” on CBS TV.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, said “we are taking aggressive steps to protect” diplomatic missions worldwide.
Among those killed so far have been four US diplomatic staff in Libya, including ambassador Chris Stevens, who died when militants laid siege to the US mission in Benghazi a week ago on September 11 in a four-hour attack.
Clinton said the FBI had launched an investigation inside Libya, and she vowed that “we will not rest until the people who orchestrated this attack are found and punished.”
In Afghanistan, Hezb-i-Islami, the second largest insurgent group after the Taliban, said the suicide bomb attack was to avenge the “insult” of the film.
“The bombing was in retaliation for the insult to our Prophet,” spokesman Zubair Sidiqi told AFP by phone from an undisclosed location.
Security officials said nine foreigners including South Africans were among those killed on a highway leading to Kabul airport when the bomber blew up her station wagon alongside a minivan carrying foreign workers.
Taliban fighters last week stormed a British-run airfield, killing two US Marines and destroying six US fighter jets in another act of vengeance.
In Lebanon, the head of the Shi’a Muslim movement Hezbollah, listed in the United States as a terrorist organisation, made a rare public appearance to warn of “very dangerous” repercussions if the entire film is released, rather than the 14-minute trailer that has already sparked outrage.
Al-Qaeda's franchise in North Africa urged Muslims to storm US embassies and kill American envoys in Muslim countries, monitoring group IntelCenter said.
The film-maker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a 55-year-old Egyptian Copt and fraudster who was sentenced to 21 months in prison in the United States in June 2010, has not been seen since Saturday when he was questioned.
The risks now facing those involved in the film's production were underlined when a Salafist cleric in Egypt called Monday for the deaths of all those involved in its making.
Before dawn on Monday, officers from the Los Angeles County sheriff's department escorted four members of Nakoula's family to join him in hiding.
Egypt's public prosecutor has ordered that seven US-based Egyptian Copts be tried over their role in the film, accusing them of “insulting the Islamic religion, insulting the Prophet and inciting sectarian strife.”
However Interpol in a statement said it was not aware of any request from Egypt for the arrest of people related to the film but stressed that its charter “forbids it from undertaking any matter of a predominantly political, military, religious or racial nature.”
In Pakistan, two protesters died after demonstrating against the film close to the Afghan border and outside the US consulate in Karachi.
Police used tear gas to disperse more than 2 000 protesters trying to reach the US consulate in the city of Peshawar, chanting anti-US slogans and burning the Stars and Stripes flag.
Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan blocked access to YouTube, following the video-sharing website's failure to take down the clip of the film. Saudi Arabia and Russia indicated they may follow suit.
In east Jerusalem hundreds of Palestinians clashed with Israeli border police, hurling stones and firebombs at a checkpoint. - Sapa-AFP