Charlie Hebdo cartoon sparks deadly violence in Muslim countries
KARACHI, Pakistan — Muslim anger flared over a French satirical weekly’s latest caricature of the prophet Mohammed, with four people reported killed and dozens injured at a protest Friday in the West African country of Niger, and violent clashes between demonstrators and police in Pakistan, Jordan, and Algeria.
Supporters say the cartoon on the cover of Charlie Hebdo is a defiant expression of free speech after a terrorist attack on the publication’s Paris offices that killed 12 people on Jan. 7, but many Muslims viewed it as another attack on their religion.
The new issue has a drawing of Mohammed, with a tear rolling down his cheek and a placard that reads ‘‘Je suis Charlie’’ — a saying that has swept France and the world since the killings. The depiction of the prophet is deemed insulting to many followers of Islam.
A French cultural center was set ablaze by protesters in the town of Zinder in southern Niger, and one security officer and three demonstrators were killed, said Interior Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou. Another 20 security officers and 23 civilians were injured, he said.
Many of the protests across the Muslim world began after midday prayers Friday, Islam’s holy day. Demonstrations were held in the Pakistani cities of Karachi, Lahore, and the capital, Islamabad.
Clashes erupted in Karachi when protesters started heading toward the French consulate, throwing stones at police, who pushed them back with water cannons and tear gas.
Agence France-Presse photographer Asif Hassan was shot and wounded, said AFP news director Michele Leridon, although ‘‘his life does not seem in danger.’’ Three other people, including two journalists and one police officer, were treated for minor injuries and released from Jinnah Hospital, said Dr. Seemi Jamali.
About 1,000 people gathered in Islamabad to condemn the French publication. The demonstrators carried signs that read ‘‘Shame on Charlie Hebdo,’’ and ‘‘If you are Charlie, then I am Kouachi’’ — referring to the brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, who were killed after carrying out the attack on the newspaper office. They had claimed to be sent by Al Qaeda in Yemen.
The demonstrations overshadowed smaller rallies in Islamabad and elsewhere to commemorate the Peshawar school attack one month ago by Taliban gunmen that killed 150 people, many of them children.