Demonstrators carried banners reading “We love Mohammed” Monday in Chechnya, Afghanistan and Iran as they protested caricatures of the Islamic prophet.wpid-Case20filed20against20Pakistan20protest20leaders.jpg

Officials said hundreds of thousands turned out for a state-sanctioned protest in Chechnya while those at the rally in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad condemned the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and called on the government to close the French embassy in Kabul.

Gunmen killed 12 people January 7 at Charlie Hebdo’s Paris offices after the magazine had published cartoons of Mohammed.

In Gaza City, dozens of supporters of a radical Islamic Salafi group waved the black flag of the Islamic State militant group and marched on the French Cultural Centre. Security officers from the Hamas-run Interior Ministry prevented the demonstrators from approaching the building.

Police said more than 1 million people showed up for the rally in Grozny, the Chechen capital, according to a local government statement.

Chechnya has 1.2 million inhabitants, but authorities said many Muslims from neighbouring regions joined the protest.

Television footage showed throngs of people crowding the streets around the city’s central mosque. Protesters carried heart-shaped red ballons and “We love the prophet” banners.

In Tehran, hundreds of students gathered outside the French embassy to chant, “Down with Zionist France” and “We love Mohammed.”

The demonstrators declared that freedom of press should not be used as a reason for insulting the prophet as large numbers of police were deployed to the embassy.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov called for the rally in the Russian republic after the Charlie Hebdo attack and condemned calls to publish more Mohammed caricatures in the wake of the bloodshed in Paris.

“Under the pretext of freedom of expression and democracy, European journalists and politicians declare freedom for offensive behaviour and lack of culture, insulting the religious feelings of hundreds of millions of believers,” he said at the rally, according to Russian news agencies.

In Jalalabad, protesters chanted anti-France slogans and burned a French flag after Charlie Hebdo published another Mohammed caricature on the cover of its first issue after the attack.

At the end of the Gaza rally, demonstrators set fire to a US flag amid shouts of “God is great!”

“We came here to send a message from Gaza to France to tell the French you are not welcome here,” a Salafist leader taking part in the rally said.

No clashes were reported at any of Monday’s rallies.

Similar rallies have resulted in casualties. Ten people were killed Friday and Saturday in Niger, and three people were hurt Friday in Pakistan.

GNA

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