Forty-five churches have been torched in Niger Republic over the Charlie Hebdo magazine’s use of a cartoon on its cover of the Prophet Mohammed. At least five people died and 128 were injured in Niamey during protests against the image on the front of the satirical publication.
The controversial magazine ran a caricature showing the prophet under the headline “All is forgiven” just days after an Islamist attack on its offices in Paris, France which left 12 people dead.
The physical depiction of Mohammed is considered blasphemous by many Muslims. Several hundred thousand people also protested in the Chechen capital Grozny at a state-organised rally. The region’s strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov told the rally in the capital Grozny: “This is a protest against those who support the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.
Demonstrators chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is the Greatest) and released balloons into the sky at the event which was described by observers as highly choreographed. Those who spoke to the crowd harangued Western governments for allowing publications to print caricatures of the prophet.
Russian TV showed live footage of people streaming into Grozny’s main square shortly before the speech by Kadyrov – a loyalist of President Vladimir Putin. It came just over a week after Sergey Lavrov Russia’s Foreign Minister took part in the march for unity in Paris following the end of the city’s sieges.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people in Afghanistan demonstrated against the magazine’s actions by burning a French flag and calling for the government to cut diplomatic relations with France.
At total of 17 people were killed in and around Paris over three days after the attack on the magazine office on 5 January. The attacks by brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly shocked the country and sparked an outpouring of international support, with many newspapers and magazines around the world reprinting earlier Charlie Hebdo cartoons. But the decision by the magazine to place a new cartoon on its front has resulted in outrage across the Muslim world.