MORE THAN 70 CHURCHES and many Christian schools including an orphanage have been destroyed by a rampaging Muslim mob in Niger in riots resulting in the deaths of 10 people.

Christians have been targeted by protestors angry with the satirical and secular Charlie Hebdo publication which has shown an image of a weeping Mohammed following the capital city’s terrorist attacks earlier this month.

Christians have fled for their lives and some believers had to hide in army barracks. Some 40 children in ‘The Good Samaritan’ orphanage run by the Assembly of God church are reported to be ‘in disarray’ under the care of local police.

The protests began in the city of Zinder on January 16 and quickly spread towards the capital Niamey. Some 1,000 Muslims gathered outside the main mosque then, and led by youths in motorbikes and cars, they set fire to public buildings, bars and other buildings. Security forces fired tear gas but the mob dispersed into smaller groups to attack Christians.

Several Muslim clerics condemned the violence and the government announced three days of mourning for the dead.

Sani Nomao, a church pastor, said: “I call on every single believer in Niger to forgive and forget, to love Muslims with all their heart, to keep up the faith, to love Christ like never before.”

Niger has been previously praised for tolerance towards Christians in a country which has a 98 per cent Muslim population. There has been a marked trend in rising radicalisation in recent years.

Chris Eyte

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