TEHRAN, Jan 19 : More than 2,000 Iranians protested on Monday outside the French embassy in Tehran, chanting "Death to France" and urging the ambassador be expelled because of a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad (SM).
The demonstration was in response to French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo's use of the cartoon in an edition published a week after 12 people were killed by Islamist gunmen at its Paris offices.
The image has angered many Muslims as depictions of Mohammad (SM) are widely considered forbidden in Islam, and has triggered protests in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, some of which turned deadly.
Iran denounced the Paris massacre but it also condemned the magazine's new cartoon, where the prophet holds a "Je suis Charlie" sign under the heading "All is forgiven".
Plans for Monday's protest led the French ambassador to announce that the embassy, located in busy downtown Tehran, would be closed all day.
The gathering, organised by students but attended by all age groups, was given a heavy security detail of around 150 Iranian police, and although noisy it passed off peacefully after two hours.
One speaker said the demonstration was to "condemn the insult of Charlie Hebdo," but also to denounce that "the embassy forces women to remove their veils to get a visa".
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people rallied on Monday at a state-sponsored protest in Russia's Muslim North Caucasus province of Chechnya against the publication of Prophet Mohammad (SM) cartoons in the wake of Islamist attacks in France.
An AFP journalist at the event put the attendance figure at several hundred thousand, while Russia's interior ministry said over 800,000 people had flooded into central Grozny for the demonstration.
45 churches torched in Niger
Forty-five churches were torched over the weekend in Niger's capital during deadly protests over the publication of a Prophet Mohammad (SM) cartoon by the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, police said on Monday.
The protests, which left five people dead and 128 people injured in Niamey, also saw a Christian school and orphanage set alight, Adily Toro, a spokesman for the national police, told a press conference. ?AFP