Thousands Protest in Mauritania Against Charlie Hebdo Cartoon

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Thousands of people took to the streets of Nouakchott on Friday to  protest against a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed published in the latest edition of the French Charlie Hebdo weekly.

The protesters set fire to a French flag but were prevented by security forces from reaching the French embassy in the Mauritanian capital, witnesses said.

Chants of "We are here to defend the prophet" and "Je suis Muslim" rang out among the crowd, which organizers put at around 30,000, but witnesses described as several thousand.

The "Je suis Muslim" slogan -- or "I am Muslim" -- was a play on the "Je suis Charlie" banners seen at rallies in France and worldwide to show solidarity after 12 people were killed in an attack by Islamist gunmen on the Paris offices of the satirical Charlie Hebdo weekly.

France was rocked by three days of jihadist attacks last week in which a total of 17 people died plus the three attackers.

Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz addressed the marchers briefly during Friday's demonstration, condemning the controversial cartoon as "an attack on our religion and on all religions".

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