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Dozens held at Niger demo after deadly cartoons riots

19 January 2015, 11:08

Niamey - Police in Niger on Sunday fired tear gas and arrested dozens at a banned opposition protest, a day after deadly riots over a depiction of the Prophet Mohammed in French weekly Charlie Hebdo.

Around 300 demonstrators gathered in the centre of the capital Niamey for a long-planned march on parliament, defying a ban on demonstrations announced on Saturday.

The protesters responded to the tear gas by throwing stones at the police and burning tyres but later dispersed peacefully, an AFP correspondent reported.

At least 90 protesters were arrested but there were no injuries, Hamidou Garba, governor of the Niamey region, said on state TV channel Tele Sahel.

The opposition alliance behind the rally had said on Saturday it would press ahead with the march against "the crushing of opposition parties" and "bad governance", despite the west African country being on edge after two days of rioting.

Freedom of expression

Ten people were killed in violent demonstrations over the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo - the Paris-based satirical weekly where 12 people were shot dead on 7 January by Islamist radicals out to avenge previous publications of Mohammed cartoons.

On Saturday, five people were killed in Niamey after protesters demonstrating against the cover of the magazine's 14 January "survivors issue" went on the rampage, setting fire to at least eight churches.

Bars, hotels and various businesses owned by non-Muslims or with connections to France were also targeted.

On Friday, five people were killed and 45 injured in similar protests in Niger's second city of Zinder.

President Mahamadou Issoufou appealed for calm on Saturday, saying "those who loot these places of worship, who desecrate them and kill their Christian compatriots... have understood nothing of Islam".

Former colonial power France, which has defended Charlie Hebdo's freedom of expression, also condemned the violence.

The riots had abated by Saturday evening, with police deployed to protect the main cathedral in Niamey and other religious sites.



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