Security up as protests loom against anti-Islam film, cartoon
Muslim governments tightened security around Western missions ahead of mass protests expected worldwide after Friday prayers at a US-made anti-Islam video and French cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed.
In Pakistan, businesses and public transport ground to a halt as the country braced for nationwide protests against the video and the cartoons published by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Political and religious groups, including the ruling Pakistan People's Party, asked the public to condemn the "sacrilegious video" but appealed for non-violent demonstrations on Friday, which the government declared a public holiday and a "day of love for the prophet."
Mobile phone services were partially suspended in several cities, including the country's commercial hub of Karachi as well as violence-stricken towns of Peshawar and Quetta, because of security concerns.
Authorities in the capital Islamabad placed shipping containers on access routes to the guarded enclave housing the US embassy and other missions.
Australia temporarily shut its mission in Islamabad, citing security concerns.
In Kuala Lumpur, thousands of Malaysians held peaceful demonstrations near the US embassy and at a nearby mosque to express their anger over the video. The embassy closed its offices in the morning ahead of the rally.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak condemned in a statement the video, Innocence of Muslims, and described it as "deeply offensive" to Islam, but he urged fellow Muslims to remain calm.
Thirty people, including the US ambassador to Libya, were killed last week in violent protests that swept the Muslim world against the online trailer of the video.
Fears mount that fresh violence will erupt Friday over the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, which show the prophet in compromising positions.
In Bangkok, nine members of Thai Muslim Students Association Friday showed up at the US embassy to pass over a letter demanding an apology from the US government over the video, which depicts Mohammed as a womaniser and a paedophile.
"We don't want to see more violence," said the association's spokesman Tuan Amindaohmaliyoh.
"We're worried that without an apology these protests will spread and be exploited by a third hand."
The US embassy stayed open Friday, but the French embassy was closed.
Islamists in Cairo planned a rally outside the French embassy, where anti-riot police were deployed.
Similar rallies were planned in other countries in the region including Lebanon and Yemen after the weekly Friday prayer.
France has said its embassies and schools will close in 20 Muslim countries including Egypt on Friday. Germany has taken similar actions across the region.
Protests were expected in France and Germany.
In Tunisia, where there were the US embassy was attacked last week, leaving four dead, all protests were officially banned.
Islam strictly bans any depiction of the prophet.