A violent mob torched at least seven churches in Niger’s capital Niamey today during fresh protests against Charlie Hebdo magazine, as France’s president stressed his commitment to “freedom of expression.”
With France still reeling from last week’s deadly attacks that killed 17 people, jittery European countries stepped up security, with soldiers patrolling the streets of Belgium for the first time in 35 years.
Anger mounted in several Muslim countries over the satirical magazine’s depiction of the prophet Mohammed, with a second day of rioting erupting in Niger.
Around 1,000 youths wielding iron bars, clubs and axes rampaged through the city, hurling rocks at police who responded with tear gas.
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 yesterday, President Francois Hollande today emphasised that France was committed to “freedom of expression”, which was “non-negotiable.”
Some 15,000 people also rallied in Russia’s Muslim North Caucasus region of Ingushetia against Charlie Hebdo.
The deployment of troops in Belgium came 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.”
British police officers, for the most part unarmed, will reportedly be equipped with taser guns as part of reinforced security measures.
As authorities try to close the net on jihadist cells around the world, Yemen detained two Frenchmen for questioning over suspected links to Al-Qaeda.
French and Belgian authorities were grilling suspected accomplices both of the Paris gunmen and the alleged “terrorist” cell raided in eastern Belgium.