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Niger protesters burn churches in second day of 'Charlie' riots

Protesters in Niamey attacked a police station and burned at least two police cars near the main mosque.

People gather next to rubbles and a hotel set on fire during a demonstration against French weekly ‘Charlie Hebdo's’ publication of a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammed in Niamey, on January 17, 2015. Picture: AFP.

NIAMEY - Several churches have been set on fire in the capital of Niger amid fresh protests against French magazine Charlie Hebdo's cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Last week suspected Islamist gunmen killed 12 people and injured 10 others at the magazine's Paris offices.

A day after five people were killed in Niger in protests over the cartoons, protesters in Niamey attacked a police station and burned at least two police cars near the main mosque after authorities banned a meeting called by local Muslim leaders. Police responded with teargas.

"They offended our Prophet Mohammed. That's what we didn't like," said Amadou Abdoul Ouahab, who took part in the demonstration. "This is the reason why we have asked Muslims to come, so that we can explain this to them, but the state refused. That's why we're angry today."

Demonstrations were also reported in regional towns, including Maradi, 600km east of Niamey, where two churches were burned. Another church and a residence of the foreign minister were burned in the eastern town of Goure.

Four Muslim preachers who had convened the meeting in Niamey were arrested, police sources said. Protesters burned the French flag and set up roadblocks on streets in the town centre but no casualties were reported on Saturday.

The French embassy in Niamey warned its citizens not to go out on the streets.

The death toll from Friday's clashes in Niger's second largest city of Zinder, rose to five after emergency services discovered a burned body inside a Catholic Church.

On Friday, churches were burned, Christian homes looted and the French cultural centre attacked during the violence in Zinder, residents said.

A police officer and three civilians had already been confirmed killed in the demonstrations against the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, police sources said.

Peaceful marches took place after Friday prayers in the capital cities of other West African countries - Mali, Senegal and Mauritania - and Algeria in North Africa, all former French colonies.

In Algiers, several police were injured in clashes with protesters angered by the cartoons.

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