A violent mob torched at least three churches in Niger’s capital Niamey Saturday during fresh protests against Charlie Hebdo magazine, as France’s president stressed his commitment to “freedom of expression.”
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 Mohammed.
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.
In his first reaction to the violence, which also erupted in Pakistan on Friday, President Francois Hollande stressed on Saturday that France was committed to “freedom of expression.”
Some 15,000 people also rallied in Russia’s Muslim North Caucasus region of Ingushetia against Charlie Hebdo.
On Saturday, Pakistan also beefed up security outside all foreign consulates here amid calls by rightwing groups for bigger demonstrations on Friday, a day after four persons were injured in violent protests over the publication. Far-right Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) group said it will bring together one million people on the streets to protest against ‘Charlie Hebdo’.
Meanwhile, jittery European nations stepped up security in the wake of last week’s attacks in France that claimed 17 lives, including 12 at Charlie Hebdo’s offices. Belgium began deploying hundreds of armed troops to patrol the streets after security forces smashed a suspected Islamist “terrorist” cell planning to kill police officers.
And in London, authorities were mulling “further measures” to protect police “given some of the deliberate targeting of the police we have seen in a number of countries across Europe and the world,” said Mark Rowley, head of counter-terrorism for the British police.
British police officers, for the most part unarmed, might be equipped with taser guns as part of reinforced security measures, according to the local press.
Traffic was suspended in the Channel Tunnel between France and Britain after smoke was spotted, but there was no immediate indication if there was a link to recent attacks.