Italian minister slams Charlie Hebdo as uproar over earthquake cartoons erupts

A picture shows an aerial view taken from a Fire Brigades helicopter of buildings damaged by the earthquake in Pescara del Tronto, Italy, Sept 1 2016.
A picture shows an aerial view taken from a Fire Brigades helicopter of buildings damaged by the earthquake in Pescara del Tronto, Italy, Sept 1 2016.PHOTO: EPA

ROME (AFP) - Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano has weighed into a row over Charlie Hebdo's earthquake cartoons on Saturday (Sept 4) with an unusually undiplomatic outburst against the French satirical weekly.

The cartoons, including one portraying quake victims crushed under layers of lasagne, have caused an outcry in Italy, where emotions are still raw after the Aug 24 quake killed nearly 300 people.

In his response, Mr Alfano recalled how Italy had stood behind Charlie after its headquarters were subjected to a deadly attack by militants in January 2015. "Using their own satire, I'd offer a suggestion as to where they can stick their pencil," Mr Alfano told journalists on the sidelines of the Ambrosetti Forum, a kind of Italian mini-Davos held this weekend in Cernobbio, on Lake Como.

"We cried over their dead, they mocked ours," Mr Alfano added.

The Charlie Hebdo cartoons have been branded disgusting by the mayor of Amatrice, the town worst hit by the quake, and repugnant by Italy's Justice Minister Andrea Orlando.

Fury on social media reached such a pitch the French embassy in Rome was moved to issue a statement emphasing that the government did not share the magazine's sentiments and could not be held responsible for them.