90 demonstrators freed in Niger
NIGER’S authorities have released 90 detained activists, opposition officials said Friday, as the country recovered from violent anti-Christian riots last week.
“All our activists, some 90, have been freed. There’s no one left in detention,” said Mamouda Mourtala, an official with Niger’s main opposition party, the National Movement for a Developing Society (MNSD).
Those released had been detained last Sunday during a banned opposition rally after two days of anti-Christian rioting that left 10 people dead and over 200 others injured in the capital Niamey and Zinder, Niger’s second city.
Police fired tear gas and arrested dozens at the banned rally.
The protests were sparked by the publication of a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed by the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo last week and degenerated into arson and looting of churches and other Christian-linked sites.
Thirty of the Niger militants were released by police on Thursday and the other 60 on Friday, Mourtala told AFP.
Protests have erupted in several Muslim countries since Charlie Hebdo published Mohammed cartoons in its “survivors’ issue”, a week after 12 people were killed in an attack by Islamist gunmen on its Paris offices.
The two masked gunmen in Paris said they were avenging previous publications of cartoons depicting the prophet by the irreverent magazine.
Friday, the Muslim day of prayers, passed without violent incident in Niger, although security forces maintained a visible presence at strategic locations.
“Friday prayers are finished, there have been no incidents, everything is calm,” a local journalist said in Niamey. Similar reports came in from Zinder.
Fearing further violence, the authorities on Thursday temporarily blocked social media, including Facebook and Twitter.