1,500 Senegalese march against Charlie Hebdo cartoons

Dakar (AFP) - Around 1,500 people including the prime minister marched Saturday in Senegal against caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Premier Mohammed Dionne was joined at the demonstration in Dakar by cabinet colleagues, civil society activists, lawmakers, religious leaders and hundreds of members of the public.

"I'm not Charlie -- I am a Muslim", "Freedom of expression is not the freedom to insult", "Do not touch my prophet" read placards brandished by demonstrators.

The event, during which a French flag was burned, used the slogan "I am Nigerian, I am African" to denounce the silence of African leaders and the world over massacres on the continent, in contrast with the emphatic response to the Paris attacks.

Nigeria's volatile northeast has repeatedly come under attack from Boko Haram extremists who began their deadly insurgency to impose Sharia in the mainly-Muslim north in 2009 and have killed thousands.

"Islam is a religion of peace," said Abdoulaye Mactar Diop, the Islamic leader of Senegal's ethnic Lebou community, accusing France of having "encouraged the publication of the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo to laugh at us".

The protests were called in response to a cartoon published by Charlie Hebdo a week after a January 7 attack by Islamist gunmen at its Paris headquarters killed 12 people.

Depictions of the prophet are considered forbidden in Islam and the latest one has sparked angry protests across the Muslim world, with Senegal banning the January 14 edition of the magazine.

"Charlie replied with provocation, we will respond with peace. Charlie has accomplices that must be denounced. France needs to stop," said organiser Sambou Biagui, of the the African Platform for Development and Human Rights.

The march came a day after hundreds of people gathered in front of the Dakar's Grand Mosque after Friday prayers to denounce caricatures of the prophet.

They criticised President Macky Sall for attending the march against terrorism held in Paris on January 12.

Sall told state media he would never countenance the practices of "a newspaper that is attacking our Islamic values".

Sall, who left for Saudi Arabia Friday to offer condolences for the death of King Abdullah, said his presence in Paris was due to his "desire to present condolences on the killing of innocent people while reaffirming my commitment in the fight against any terrorist act".