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Niger Police Fire Tear Gas to Disperse Opposition Rally

  • VOA News

A man holds a hat over his mouth as black smoke billows from tires set on fire in Niamey after police fired teargas to disperse a banned opposition demonstration in the Niger capital, Jan. 18, 2015.

A man holds a hat over his mouth as black smoke billows from tires set on fire in Niamey after police fired teargas to disperse a banned opposition demonstration in the Niger capital, Jan. 18, 2015.

Police in Niger used tear gas to break up a banned opposition protest in the capital, Niamey, on Sunday, a day after deadly riots over a French magazine's publication of a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad.

Several hundred members of an opposition alliance had organized the march long ago to protest bad governance in the west African nation.

However, Niamey's governor banned the march on Friday after violent riots erupted in the country over cartoons of the prophet that were published last week by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Ten people were killed over two days. On Saturday, five people were killed in church fires and violent clashes in Niamey. At least five others were killed on Friday in the southern town of Zinder.

Charlie Hebdo

The violence came after the French magazine published a new cartoon depicting a weeping Prophet Muhammad under the headline "All is forgiven." The issue, published Wednesday, was the first following a Jan. 7 terrorist attack on its headquarters that left 12 dead.

Physical depictions of the prophet are considered blasphemous, and protests have occurred in a number of predominantly Muslim countries since the publication hit newsstands last week.

The decree outlawing the demonstration did not give a reason for the decision.

Political tensions have risen in Niger since 2013 when Hama Amadou, a powerful former political ally of President Mahamadou Issoufou, split from the ruling coalition.

Hama, speaker of parliament at the time, fled Niger last year after leading lawmakers authorized his arrest on suspicion he was involved in a baby-trafficking ring. He has denied the accusations.

Opposition claim

Seventeen people, including the wives of several senior politicians, were arrested last June by police investigating allegations that they acquired new-born babies from “baby factories” in neighboring Nigeria. Hama's wife was among those initially taken into custody.

Niger's opposition claims the investigation is politically motivated and part of a broader attempt by Issoufou's government to silence dissent.

Late Saturday, President Issoufou appealed for calm, telling the French news agency AFP, "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.

Some material for this report came from Reuters, AP and AFP.

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