Churches torched in 
fury over cartoon

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The Niger government says at least 45 churches have been set on fire in the predominantly Muslim West African nation in protests over French cartoons lampooning Islam’s prophet.

In a statement, the government also declared three days of national mourning for the 10 people who died amid the violent protests that first began on Friday.

Authorities have said that the victims were inside churches and bars set ablaze by protesters angry about the portrayal of the Prophet Mohammed in the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

The publication was the subject of a terror attack that left 12 dead earlier this month.

Niger’s government promised that those responsible for the arson and deaths would be sought and punished.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands have marched through the Chechen capital to protest against the magazine.

Demonstrators in Grozny, capital of the predominantly Muslim region in southern Russia, released balloons and carried posters that read “Hands off our beloved prophet” and “Europe has only united us”.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov wrote on his official Instagram account that those who defended Charlie Hebdo were his “personal enemies” and vowed that at least one million people would join the government-sponsored protest in Grozny.

Yesterday Mr Kadyrov spoke from a stage wearing a vest with “We Love Mohammed, we don’t love Charlie” written on it.

A police spokesman told Interfax news agency that 800,000 people attended yesterday’s protest, although those numbers were impossible to verify.