Niger police breaks up opposition demo after deadly cartoons riots

Niger police breaks up opposition demo after deadly cartoons riots

NIAMEY - Police in Niger fired tear gas Sunday to break up a banned opposition demonstration in the capital Niamey, a day after deadly riots over the publication by France's Charlie Hebdo magazine of a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed.

Around 300 demonstrators gathered in central 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.

Seven protesters were arrested, a police source said.

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

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 January 7 by Islamist radicals out to avenge previous publications of Mohammed cartoons.

On Saturday, five people were killed in Niamey after protesters demonstrating over the cover of the magazine's January 14 "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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