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Churches Torched in Niger as Riots Over 'Charlie Hebdo' Cover Turn Deadly

Ten people have been killed during violent demonstrations in Niger over the recent 'Charlie Hebdo' cover that features a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad.
Photo by Tagaza Djibo/Reuters

Violent demonstrations against Charlie Hebdo have left 10 people dead in Niger in the past two days, as protesters set ablaze churches, bars, and vehicles in anger at the satirical magazine's new cover featuring a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad.

The protests, which began outside the capital city of Niamey's grand mosque, also voiced outrage at Niger's president for attending a Paris unity rally in the wake of the terrorist attacks earlier this month.


Video footage shows buildings and cars being torched in a chaotic thoroughfare in Niamey.

Photographer shot as violence breaks out at Pakistan protest over 'Charlie Hebdo' cover. Read more here.

At least six churches were burned or looted, and two charred bodies were pulled from one, the BBC reported. The body of one woman was recovered from a bar after the protesters targeted non-Muslim establishments in the city.

"Those who loot these places of worship, who desecrate them and kill their Christian compatriots… have understood nothing of Islam," Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou told the BBC.

Issoufou was one of six African leaders to join the massive march in Paris on January 11. France arrested 12 suspects Friday for possible involvement with the terror attacks, but three of the suspects were released Sunday as the terror probe continued, AP reported.

Niger's security forces fired teargas to break up more protests Sunday after the government banned the demonstrations after the violent incidents in previous days. The Sunday rallies were actually planned before the Charlie Hebdo attacks, and were designed to voice general grievances against the government, AP reported.

Niger is just one of many Muslim countries where people have demonstrated this week against Charlie Hebdo's new cover, which features a weeping Prophet Muhammad holding a sign that says "I am Charlie." Images of the Prophet are considered blasphemous in Islam.


Protests have broken out in Syria, Lebanon, Algeria, Senegal, Pakistan, and several other countries. Many demonstrators have burned the French flag, France 24 reported.

Governments around the world are cracking down on the latest 'Charlie Hebdo' cover. Read more here.

Iranian students also plan to protest Monday outside the French embassy in Tehran, AFP reported.

A Saudi Muslim leader is reportedly planning to sue Charlie Hebdo for publishing the satirical image of the Prophet Muhammad on its cover, the Independent reported. Iyad Mayani, the leader of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said his group was "studying Europe and French laws and other available procedures to take legal action against Charlie Hebdo."

"These cartoons have hurt the sentiments of Muslims around the world," he tweeted, as translated by the Independent.

French President Francois Hollande responded to the outrage with a reaffirmation of his country's commitment to freedom of expression.

"We've supported these countries against terrorism," Hollande said during a visit to the French city Tulle. "I still want to express my solidarity towards them, but at the same time France has principles and values, in particular freedom of expression."

Follow Meredith Hoffman on Twitter: @merhoffman