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Muslims take to streets in Friday prayer protests

Fresh protests have turned deadly in Pakistan in response to a controversial anti-Islam film and pictures published in a French magazine. In both cases, the Prophet Muhammad is depicted - a taboo in Islam.

Tens of thousands of protestors took to the streets in Pakistan Friday, with reports leaving between six and 15 people dead. The unrest spread to several cities around the country, including Islamabad, Peshawar, Lahore, Multan and Muzaffarabad.

The southern city of Karachi saw the worst of the violence, with as many as 12 reported dead and more than 100 wounded.

A cinema was set on fire in Peshawar despite the efforts of armed guards. The driver of a TV news van was killed as he tried to move in closer to the cinema and was hit by a stray bullet allegedly fired by police.

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Watch protesters in Pakistan

Riot police have been deployed elsewhere in the country. Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf's government designated Friday as an impromptu holiday to allow people to protest, calling it a "day of love for the Prophet."

Protests are also underway in the capital cities of Kuala Lumpur and Kabul.

Egypt's Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, the country's highest Islamic legal official, cautioned against violent retaliation against insults to Muslims, and Tunisia has banned protests completely on Friday.

Tightened security

An amateur film made in the US that casts Muhammad as a brutal womanizer and child abuser infuriated many Muslims around the world, and this week's publication in the French magazine, Charlie Hebdo, of Muhammad caricatures has only added fuel to the fire.

Western embassies around the world had already taken precautions in anticipation of Friday's protests, with the US government withdrawing non-essential diplomatic personnel from Tunisia and Sudan.

On Thursday, US President Barack Obama sought to ease tensions by running a television commercial on Pakistani stations, condemning the California-made film, "Innocence of Muslims." The ad features Obama and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rejecting the film's message.

France, meanwhile, has closed embassies and schools in 20 Muslim countries fearing backlash from the Charlie Hebdo pictures.

German publication enters debate

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also issued a security alert to diplomatic personal on Thursday after the German magazine, Titanic, revealed that it planned to join the debate by publishing its own provocative images.

His warning comes a week after protesters stormed the German embassy in Sudan's capital Khartoum, starting a fire and damaging the exterior of the building.

mz,dr/rc (Reuters, AFP, dapd, dpa, AP)

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