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Churches Burned and Shops Raided in Charlie Hebdo Protests in West Africa

Police in Niger fired tear gas at a crowd of hundreds of people who burned French flags and tires in the streets.

Demonstrators in Niger attacked the French cultural center, set fire to churches and raided Christian shops on Friday, as protests erupted against Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons in several Muslim West African countries.

Police in Niger’s southern city of Zinder, the second largest in Niger, fired tear gas at a crowd of hundreds of people who burned French flags and tires in the streets. “The protesters are crying out in local Hausa language: ‘Charlie is Satan — let hell engulf those supporting Charlie,’” said Aboubacar Mamane, a shopkeeper, by telephone. Witnesses said the demonstrators ransacked the French cultural center and the homes of police officers.

Staff of the satirical French weekly, which had angered Muslims by publishing images of the Prophet Muhammad, were shot dead by Islamist gunmen in Paris last week.

Peaceful marches took place after Friday prayers in the capital cities of former French colonies Mali, Senegal and Mauritania. Demonstrators said they were angered by the latest front cover of Charlie Hebdo this week, which despite the Paris killings again featured a cartoon of Mohammad. “Charlie Hebdo in the toilets,” said one placard held by a protestor in Nouakchott.

The presidents of Niger, Mali and Senegal last week marched alongside more than a million French citizens to show solidarity with the victims of the Paris bloodshed, which began with a shooting attack on Charlie Hebdo’s Paris office. But in an indication of the shifting mood, Macky Sall, president of one of Africa's most stable democracies, Senegal, said late on Thursday: “Freedom of the press should not, in our view, head in the direction of a totally pointless provocation.”



— Reuters