Violence erupted throughout Niger Saturday during the second day of protests against a cartoon that caricatured the Muslim prophet Muhammad — resulting in church arson and the deaths of several people.
Reuters reports that “stone-throwing Muslim youths” clashed with police, torched churches and looted stores during riots in the capital city of Niamey. It is unclear how many churches were attacked in Niamey. Two churches were burned in the city of Maradi and one was burned in Goure.
Niger’s second largest city, Zinder, also experienced a wave of anti-Christian violence Saturday as rioters invaded churches and the homes of Christian residents. A charred body was found in a local Catholic Church after protesters left the premises.
At least ten people were killed in the cities of Niamey and Zinder on Saturday, most of them civilians.
“They offended our Prophet Mohammad, that’s what we didn’t like,” a demonstrator in Niamey told Reuters.
The vast majority of Niger’s population is Muslim, with radical Islam considered a growing force in the country.
The cartoon that caused the protests was published by the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo to commemorate the terrorist attack that struck the publication Jan. 7. The cartoon depicted a phallic-shaped Muhammad crying while holding a sign of the famous phrase “Je Suis Charlie.”
This illustration angered many Muslims who consider it blasphemy to depict their prophet in such a manner. Charlie Hebdo’s previous cartoons portraying Muhammad are considered the reason Islamic militants originally targeted the publication.