4 killed in Niger during Islam cartoon protest

AP and AFP

Muslim anger flared over a French satirical weekly’s latest caricature of the Prophet Muhammad, with four people reported killed and dozens injured at a protest Friday in the West African country of Niger, and violent clashes between demonstrators and police in Pakistan, Jordan and Algeria.

Supporters say the cartoon on the cover of Charlie Hebdo is a defiant expression of free speech following a terrorist attack on the publication’s Paris offices that killed 12 people on Jan. 7, but many Muslims viewed it as another attack on their religion.

The new issue has a drawing of Muhammad, with a tear rolling down his cheek and a placard that reads ��Je Suis Charlie�� �X a saying that has swept France and the world since the killings. The depiction of the prophet is deemed insulting to many followers of Islam.

A violent mob torched at least three churches in Niger’s capital Niamey Saturday during fresh protests against Charlie Hebdo magazine. Around 1,000 youths wielding iron bars, clubs and axes rampaged through the city, hurling rocks at police who responded with tear gas in a second day of violent demonstrations against the satirical magazine’s publication of the prophet Muhammad. The French embassy in Niamey urged its citizens to stay at home, the day after a rally against Charlie Hebdo in the country’s second city of Zinder left four dead and 45 injured. ��Be very cautious, avoid going out,�� the embassy said on its website as rioters also ransacked several French-linked businesses, including telephone kiosks run by Orange. Hollande Defends ‘freedom of expression’ after Protests French President Francois Hollande stressed Saturday that France had ��principles, values, notably freedom of expression�� after violent protests against the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Niger and Pakistan. Hollande recalled that ��we have supported these countries in their fight against terrorism.��

A French cultural center was set ablaze by protesters in the town of Zinder in southern Niger, and one security officer and three demonstrators were killed in the melee, said Interior Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou. Another 20 security officers and 23 civilians were injured, he said.

The government of Niger, a former French colony, has banned the sale of Charlie Hebdo.

Many of the protests across the Muslim world began after midday prayers Friday, Islam’s holy day.

Demonstrations were held in the Pakistani cities of Karachi, Lahore and the capital of Islamabad.

Clashes erupted in Karachi when protesters started heading toward the French consulate, throwing stones at police, who pushed them back with water cannons and tear gas.

Agence France-Presse photographer Asif Hassan was shot and wounded, said AFP news director Michele Leridon, although ��his life does not seem in danger.�� AFP said it was trying to find out whether Hassan was targeted or shot accidentally.