Four killed in Niger anti-French riots, protests held in Pakistan, Algeria

Four people were killed in protests turned violent in Niger on Friday, after French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published more cartoon images of the Prophet Muhammad a week after Islamist gunmen shot dead 12 people at its offices in Paris.

Protests also erupted in Pakistan and Algeria resulting in several injuries. Elsewhere, peaceful marches were held after Friday prayers in the capital cities of former French colonies Mali, Senegal and Mauritania.

The Niger government said four were killed as police clashed with a crowd that attacked a French cultural center and set churches ablaze.

Protesters in the poor West African country's second-largest city of Zinder in the south set French flags ablaze and attacked Christian shops with clubs and Molotov cocktails, while police responded with tear gas.

Three civilians died, including two who were shot by police during an attack on their station, interior minister Hassoumi Massaoudou said on state television.

A police officer was run over and killed, while 45 other people sustained injuries.

“Zinder experienced a quasi-insurrectional situation, a spontaneous protest of a criminal nature,” said Massaoudou. “I would like to reassure Christians that the state is here to defend those living in Niger at all costs,” he said.

Witnesses said the crowd of mostly youths ransacked the French cultural center as well as the homes of police officers and the local headquarters of President Mahamadou Issoufou's party.

“The protesters are crying out in local Hausa language: 'Charlie is Satan – let hell engulf those supporting Charlie',” said Aboubacar Mamane, a shopkeeper, by telephone.

The streets were calmer by nightfall, residents said. As a precaution, the government forbid a Saturday sermon on the Prophet at the main mosque in the capital Niamey.


Charlie Hebdo's first edition since the attack, published on Wednesday, featured a cartoon of the Prophet on a cover that defenders praised as art but critics saw as a new provocation.

In Pakistan, police fired tear gas and water cannon at about 200 protesters outside the French consulate in the southern port city of Karachi.

In Algeria, police clashed with demonstrators in Algiers after rioting broke out at the end of a protest against the publication of the French cartoons. Several officers were injured as small groups of protesters hurled rocks, fireworks and bottles at security forces around the waterfront area of the Algerian capital.

In Niger, demonstrators said they were angered by the latest front cover of Charlie Hebdo this week, which despite the Paris killings again featured a cartoon of Mohammad.

“Charlie Hebdo in the toilets,” said one placard held by a protester at a march in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott.

The presidents of Niger, Mali and Senegal last week marched alongside more than a million French citizens to show solidarity with the victims of the Paris bloodshed, which began with a shooting attack on Charlie Hebdo's Paris office.

But in an indication of the shifting mood, Macky Sall, president of one of Africa's most stable democracies Senegal, said late on Thursday: “Freedom of the press should not, in our view, head in the direction of a totally pointless provocation.”

Nation & World Briefs

London, Tel Aviv Bombing Link

One of the terrorists in the July 7 London transit-system bombings reportedly knew one of the bombers in a 2003 Tel Aviv terrorist attack. Mohammed Siddique Khan knew Omar Sharif, one of the two British terrorists to attack Mike’s Place, a Tel Aviv restaurant, in April 2003, Britain’s Independent newspaper reported. Khan, 30, one of the four suicide bombers whose attacks on London’s transport system killed more than 50 people and injured more than 700, was friendly with Sharif.

In February 2003, Khan visited Israel for one day, leading to speculation that he may have been on a reconnaissance mission for the Mike’s Place attack. Sharif’s accomplice, Asif Hanif, blew himself up, killing three people; Sharif failed to detonate his explosive belt in the attack. He escaped only to be found dead in the sea some days later.

Sharon’s Son Indicted

The son of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was indicted on charges of illegally financing his father’s Likud Party primary campaign. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz filed charges against Omri Sharon on Tuesday, prompting the Likud lawmaker to forfeit his parliamentary immunity.

According to media reports, Mazuz and Omri Sharon had discussed a possible plea bargain, but the negotiations collapsed when the latter demanded that he serve no jail time.

Mazuz cleared the prime minister and two senior advisers in connection with the case in February. Omri Sharon, who also is charged with fraud, breach of trust and perjury, could be sentenced up to seven years in prison, but media reports said any prison time would be much less, probably months.

Pentagon Sells to Israel

The Pentagon plans to sell Israel’s air force up to $600 million of equipment and maintenance. The contract would cover service for Israel’s F-15 and F-16A/B fighter jets for 10 years, the Pentagon said last Friday.

“This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the U.S. by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that has been, and continues to be, an important force for economic progress in the Middle East,” the Pentagon said in a notice to Congress.

Congress has 30 days to block the sale, but is unlikely to do so.

Ambassador to Israel Named

The White House named Richard Jones as U.S. ambassador to Israel. Jones, a former ambassador to Kuwait and Lebanon, was named to the post Monday. He most recently served as a senior adviser and policy coordinator on Iraq at the State Department. Jones replaces Daniel Kurtzer, who has served in the post for four years.

Group Calls for Niger Aid

The American Jewish Congress-Council for World Jewry called on the international community to urgently address the prospect of mass starvation in Niger. Monday’s call comes after the inaugural meeting last week of the group’s Consultative Committee on Africa-Jewish Relations at the United Nations. In a statement, the AJCongress-Council for World Jewry noted 2.5 million people, including 800,000 children are in dire need of emergency food aid.

Chabad Founder’s Son Converted Out?

Recently discovered documents in Belarus appear to confirm rumors that the son of Chabad’s founder converted to Catholicism. According to a recent Ha’aretz report, Hebrew University Professor Shaul Stempfer discovered documents in the national historical archives in Minsk that chronicle the conversion of Moshe Zalmanovitch, the youngest son of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, about 180 years ago. The files, which once belonged to the Catholic Church, contain a letter written by Moshe in 1820 in which he professes his Roman Catholic faith. According to the documents, Moshe was mentally unstable, and after a stint as adviser to the czar, ended his life in a mental hospital in St. Petersburg. Chabad historian Yosef Kaminetzky responded to the Ha’aretz story by saying the Minsk documents are forgeries, and Catholic authorities in Minsk tried to convert Zalmanovitch against his will.

Israelis Triumph at Maccabiah

Israeli athletes won the largest number of medals at the 17th Maccabiah Games. Athletes representing the Jewish state won 381 medals, including 146 golds, in the open competition at the games, which ended July 21. The U.S. team finished second with 156 medals. Russia finished third with 48 medals, and Canada fourth with 28.

Briefs courtesy of Jewish Telegraphic Agency.