CAIRO – At least 10 people have been killed in violent protests in the West African nation of Niger over the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo's depiction of the Prophet Muhammad, the country's president said.
President Mahamadou Issoufou said that five deaths were reported after demonstrations in Niamey, the capital, on Saturday. Another five people died Friday in the town of Zinder following prayer services there. The victims were inside churches and bars that were set ablaze, he said.
The violence erupted after Charlie Hebdo published its first issue since the Jan. 7 attack on its headquarters by Islamic extremists that left 12 people dead.
The magazine, which had long antagonized Muslims with its depictions of the prophet, carried a cover cartoon depicting Muhammad holding a "Je Suis Charlie" sign.
According to mainstream Islamic tradition, any physical depiction of the Prophet Muhammad — even a respectful one — is considered blasphemous.
While many Muslims have expressed disgust at the deadly assault on the magazine's Paris office, many are also deeply offended by the magazine's cartoons lampooning Muhammad.
In Iran, the government has publicly condemned both the attack on Charlie Hebdo and the magazine itself, calling the continued publishing of Muhammad caricatures "provocative" and an insult to Islam.
Iranian judicial authorities on Saturday banned a daily newspaper for publishing a front-page headline that allegedly indicated support for Charlie Hebdo.
Elsewhere in the Muslim world on Saturday, Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani condemned Charlie Hebdo, calling the newest cover image of Prophet Muhammad a blasphemous and irresponsible act.
"Freedom of expression should be used in a way to boost understanding between the religions," he said in a statement issued by the presidential palace.
Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi also issued a statement of condemnation, warning that, "offensive words might lead to further bloodshed."
He also reiterated his condemnation of the attacks on innocent victims in Paris, saying that terrorism, "has nothing to do with Islam in any way."
Protesters also demonstrated in front of the French Embassy in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, as well as in the Pakistani city of Karachi.
In Egypt, the Islamist Noor Party denounced the latest Charlie Hebdo cover on its French-language Facebook page.
"Just as the Noor Party rejects the assault on civilians and the negative effects it has for all Muslims of Europe, it also rejects this barbaric, irresponsible act under the name of freedom of expression," the statement declared.
In Gaza City, the capital of the Gaza Strip, unknown vandals scrawled graffiti on the walls of the French Cultural Center. In addition to statements praising the Prophet Muhammad and declaring him off-limits for ridicule or satire, the vandals also wrote: "To hell, to a miserable destiny, French journalists."