Niger's president said Saturday that at least 10 people had been killed in two days of violent protests over the cartoon depiction of the Prophet Muhammad in the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
President Mahamadou Issoufou said five people were killed Saturday in church fires and violent clashes in the capital, Niamey. At least five others were killed a day earlier in the southern town of Zinder. The protests there included attacks on a French cultural center, several churches and Christian shops.
The violence erupted despite a government decision to ban the distribution of Charlie Hebdo in the Muslim-dominated West African country.
Sani Iro, communications director for PNDS-Tarayya, the ruling Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism, said the distribution ban was aimed at ensuring peace in Niger. Critics said the decision infringed on freedom of speech guaranteed in the constitution.
The latest cover of Charlie Hebdo depicts a weeping Prophet Muhammad, holding a sign reading "Je Suis Charlie" ("I Am Charlie"), under the headline "All is Forgiven."
This was the first edition of the French magazine to be issued since gunmen attacked the publication's offices in Paris recently. Twelve people were killed in the assault. The killings were said to be retaliation for Charlie Hebdo's previous depictions of Muhammad.
French President Francois Hollande on Saturday defended free speech, saying that anti-Charlie Hebdo protesters in other countries do not understand France's attachment to freedom of speech.
Men move a policeman by stretcher who was wounded after being hit by stones during a protest organized by Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (JTI), the student wing of religious political party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), against the satirical French weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, Jan. 16, 2015.
Supporters of Pakistani religious group Jamaat-i-Islami protest caricatures published in French magazine Charlie Hebdo, in Karachi, Pakistan, Jan. 16, 2015.
Supporters of Jamiat Talaba Islam (JTI), the student wing of religious political party Jamat Islami (JI), chant slogans during a protest against satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo, which most recently featured a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad on the cover, Karachi, Pakistan, Jan. 16, 2015.
A policeman uses his gun to disperse protesters during a protest against satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo, which featured a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad on the cover after the terror attack in Paris, Karachi, Pakistan, Jan. 16, 2015.
Protesters chant slogans during a protest against satirical French weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which featured a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad on the cover after the terror attack in Paris, Quetta, Pakistan, Jan. 16, 2015.
Supporters of Jamiat Talaba Islam (JTI), the student wing of Jamat Islami (JI), throws stones at policemen during a protest against satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo, which featured a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad on its cover after the Paris terror attack, Karachi, Pakistan, Jan. 16, 2015.
Protests in Asia, Mideast
Violent demonstrations also occurred in Karachi, Pakistan, where several hundred protesters clashed with police. A photographer with the French news agency AFP was reported to be among three people wounded.
Protests also took place in other major Pakistani cities, including Islamabad and Lahore, and in Istanbul, Turkey.
In Yemen, protesters gathered Saturday in front of the French Embassy in Sanaa, chanting slogans against caricatures published in the French satirical weekly.
In Algiers, Algeria, police clashed with demonstrators who threw rocks and bottles around the waterfront area of the capital. Hundreds of people had earlier marched peacefully through the capital, waving placards saying "I am Muhammad."
Largely peaceful marches took place in the capitals of West African countries Mali, Senegal and Mauritania.
In Amman, Jordanians gathered to protest against satirical French cartoons after Friday prayers.
In Sudan, protesters took to the streets of Khartoum to protest against France and Charlie Hebdo. Some carried large banners bearing such slogans as "Death for French" and "Charlie Hebdo offends the Prophet."
In Islam, visual representations of all the prophets and messengers of God are prohibited in order to prevent idolatry and the worshipping of the images themselves rather than God.
Ayaz Gul contributed to this report from Islamabad, and some information came from Reuters. Peter Clottey contributed reporting.