French PM condemns attack on Mohammed satire newspaper

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French Prime Minister Francois Fillon condemned Wednesday a suspected firebomb attack on a satirical newspaper that printed a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed on its front page.

"Freedom of expression is an inalienable right in our democracy and all attacks on the freedom of the press must be condemned with the greatest firmness. No cause can justify such an act of violence," Fillon said in a statement on the fire at the offices of weekly Charlie Hebdo.

Fillon said he had asked Interior Minister Claude Gueant to ensure "all light is shed on the origin of this fire and that its perpetrators be prosecuted."

Charlie Hebdo's Paris offices were gutted in a fire overnight after what police said was a suspected petrol bomb attack.

The weekly published a special edition Wednesday to mark the Arab Spring, renaming the newspaper Charia (Sharia) Hebdo for the occasion and featuring a front-page cartoon of the prophet saying: "100 lashes if you don't die of laughter!"

As well as the cover cartoon, a back-page drawing featured Mohammed wearing a red nose and accompanied by the words: "Yes, Islam is compatible with humour."

The depiction of the prophet's face is strictly prohibited in Islam and previous publications of cartoons of Mohammed have sparked angry protests by Muslims worldwide.

© 2011 AFP

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