French centre in Niger set ablaze in Charlie Hebdo protests
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At least four people were killed and a French cultural centre set ablaze in Niger’s second city Zinder on Friday after a protest against satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo turned violent.
Niger’s Interior Minister Massaoudou Hassoumi confirmed that a policeman and three civilians were killed in the unrest, which also left 45 injured.
Earlier, an angry crowd of around 50 demonstrators broke through the front entrance of the city’s French cultural centre where they set fire to the cafeteria, library and offices, ignoring warning shots fired by two police guards, the centre’s director, Kaoumi Bawa, told AFP.
The violence came as hundreds gathered in Zinder to protest against Charlie Hebdo, which defiantly ran a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed on the front page of its first issue since 12 people were killed in an attack on the publication’s offices in Paris last Wednesday.
For the majority of Muslims, any depiction of the Prophet Mohammed is considered offensive.
“It all started this morning after prayers. Several hundred people took to the city’s street as they came out of mosques shouting slogans hostile to Charlie Hebdo,” said FRANCE 24’s Africa specialist, Jean-Karim Fall.
“They attacked a number of religious buildings. The Catholic mission was completely ransacked. They also destroyed and burned a Catholic school. Several establishments, bars, were destroyed in the city,” Fall said.
According to local authorities, three churches, two Protestant and one Catholic, were vandalised in the unrest. Police used tear gas to disperse the protesters, who also set fire to French flags and tyres.
"We've never seen that in living memory in Zinder," an administration official told AFP. "It's a black Friday."
Zinder was just one of many cities across the Muslim world where protests were staged on Friday against Charlie Hebdo’s decision to publish the Mohammed cartoon.
While demonstrations in Mali, Mauritania and Senegal were peaceful, around 200 protesters clashed with police outside the French consulate in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi.
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