PARIS - France was bracing Thursday for a backlash after a French magazine published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, fuelling the flames of protest in the Muslim world over a US-made anti-Islam film.
Paris said that on Friday, the Muslim day of prayer, it would its shutter diplomatic missions, cultural centres and French schools in around 20 Muslim countries for fear of violent protests.
As senior officials and Muslim leaders appealed for calm, the French mission in Tunisia was closed on Wednesday, while its Egyptian mission was to shut its doors temporarily on Thursday.
More than 30 people have been killed in attacks and violent protests linked to the film "Innocence of Muslims", including 12 people who died in an attack by a female suicide bomber in Afghanistan on Tuesday.
The crudely made film - which was produced by US-based extremist Christians and depicts the Prophet as a thuggish womaniser - has triggered protests in at least 20 countries since excerpts were posted online.
In reaction to the uproar, the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published cartoons mocking the film and caricaturing the Muslim prophet, including two drawings showing him naked.
The magazine's website was swiftly put out of action by a cyber-attack and riot police were deployed outside the magazine's Paris offices.
In Pakistan, around 1,000 students from the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami party took to the streets in the eastern city of Lahore on Wednesday, chanting anti-US slogans and burning the American flag.
A similar number demonstrated in Karachi, while in Islamabad around 500 lawyers burst into the capital's diplomatic enclave, chanting anti-American slogans and castigating the government for not taking strong action.
The Pakistan government declared Friday a national holiday in honour of the Prophet Mohammed, in a sudden announcement made after religious parties had called for a day of protest.