Niger church ransacked by Muslims

2012-09-16 21:17

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Niamey - Several Christian leaders are being held in protective custody in Niger after demonstrators angry at an anti-Islam film ransacked a major Catholic church, a local journalist said on Sunday.

Hundreds of protesters stormed the cathedral in Niger's second city of Zinder after Friday prayers, and set fire to US and British flags, a local priest and the journalist told AFP.

The Islamic Council of Niger, the highest religious body in the mainly Muslim country, condemned the US-made film that has triggered protests across the Arab and Muslim world, but also appealed for churches to be spared.

One policeman was wounded in clashes that erupted during the protests in Zinder, which lies near the border with Nigeria, and about a dozen demonstrators were arrested, the journalist said.

"After Friday prayers, hundreds of protesters broke down the door of the church and totally trashed it, before setting fire to all the documents and breaking a statue of the Virgin Mary," the local radio journalist said.

"Several Christian leaders are being held by the police to ensure their safety," he said, adding that security forces have been deployed to prevent further attacks against churches.

The US-made low-budget film Innocence of Muslims, deemed offensive to Islam, has triggered a wave of sometimes deadly protests since last week.

The Islamic Council condemned the film as a "historical crime by the enemies of Islam" but also denounced attacks against Western embassies in several Arab countries and called for Niger's Muslims to refrain from attacks against churches.

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