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Niger sees fresh violence over Hebdo cover

January 17, 2015

Police and protesters have again clashed in Niger's capital Niamey. Churches were set ablaze on the second day of violent demonstrations, part of a restless response to Charlie Hebdo's post-terror-attack front cover.

Niger Proteste gegen Mohammed Karikaturen in Charlie Hebdo 16.1.2015
Image: STR/AFP/Getty Images

Niger's capital Niamey was again the scene of violence on Saturday, as around 100 riot police stood in front of the city's cathedral, protecting it from stone-throwing youths. Police used tear gas earlier in the day to disperse a crowd that had gathered around the city's grand mosque.

At least eight churches were set ablaze in the capital, an AFP correspondent said.

In Niger's second city of Zinder on Friday, a police officer and three civilians were killed in clashes; at least three additional deaths were reported on Saturday. Some attacked Zinder's French cultural center, others burned the French flag. These protests were also linked to the front cover of the French satiricial magazine Charlie Hebdo, which went to press this week with an image of the Prophet Muhammad on its cover following the Islamist terror attacks in Paris.

Niger Proteste gegen Mohammed Karikaturen in Charlie Hebdo 16.1.2015
Two churches in Zinder were set ablaze in violence following Friday prayersImage: STR/AFP/Getty Images

The demonstrations had calmed by Saturday evening, but further protests are expected on Sunday.

Embassy warning

France's embassy in Niger on Saturday issued a short statement on its website, advising French citizens in the former colony: "Be very cautious, avoid going out."

Several French-linked businesses, including telephone kiosks belonging to Orange, were targeted by some of the demonstrators. The attacks were broadly believed to be a response to Charlie Hebdo publishing its depiction of Muhammad, a practice considered offensive by many Muslims.

"They offended our Prophet Muhammad," Amadou Abdoul Ouahab, who took part in Saturday's Niamey unrest, told the Reuters news agency. "That's what we didn't like. This is the reason why we have asked Muslims to come, so that we can explain this to them, but the state refused. That's why we're angry today."

Local Muslim leaders had called a formal meeting in Niamey for Saturday, but authorities canceled this in response to Friday's violence. Reuters reported, citing police, that four men organizing the event had been detained.

BdT Deutschland Charlie Hebdo ab Samstag in Deutschland
'All is forgiven,' reads the headline; the figure in a turban holds a sign saying 'Je suis Charlie'Image: picture-alliance/dpa/B. Roessler

Demonstrations were also reported in regional towns including Maradi, Zinder and Goure on Saturday.

There for all to see

Five million editions of what's been dubbed the survivors' edition of Charlie Hebdo are set to be printed, in six languages, and sold around the world - compared to an average weekly circulation of around 60,000 copies. The magazine, which hit German news stands on Satuday, is also available in much of the Arab world.

Other, peaceful demonstrations opposing the Charlie Hebdo cover have taken place in several former French colonies in West Africa - like Mali, Senegal and Mauritania - and in Algeria in North Africa. In Algiers, however, several police officers were injured when protesters turned violent.

In Pakistan, an AFP photographer was shot and badly injured at one of several anti-Charlie Hebdo demonstrations organized by Islamist political party Jamaat e-Islami.

msh/tj (AFP, dpa)

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