EGYPT: Incidents of protesters setting themselves on fire occur across North Africa

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The depressed fruit seller in Tunisia who set himself on fire and touched off protests that toppled former President Zine el Abidine ben Ali has inspired copycats in recent days in Egypt, Algeria and Mauritania.

On Monday, a 50-year-old man frustrated by tough economic times set himself on fire outside the Egyptian parliament. Abdou Abdul Monem, a father of four who owns a stand near Ismailia, Egypt, for selling fast food, was said to have grown desperate after a dispute with local authorities over receiving his monthly coupons for subsidized bread.


Abdul Monem traveled to the capital and stood outside parliament shouting anti-government slogans before dousing himself with fuel and setting himself on fire. A nearby taxi driver intervened with a fire extinguisher. Egyptian Health Minister Hatem El Gabali said Abdul Monem suffered first-degree burns on 15% of his body and should be discharged from a hospital within 48 hours.

The self-immolation comes a day after four similar incidents were reported in Algeria, where protests against high prices for food and commodities have been going on for the last two weeks. Algerian media reported that the men were angry and depressed.

In Mauritania, Foreign Ministry official Abdou Ould Sidi said that police rushed a man to hospital in Nouakchott on Monday. Yacoub Ould Dahoud, 43, drove to a capital building before torching himself in his car to voice his resentment toward Mauritania’s government.

The self-immolation in December of Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia is cited as the starting point that spurred nationwide anger and dismay over Ben Ali’s authoritarian rule. After weeks of violent protests that led to the shooting of scores of demonstrators, Ben Ali fled the country.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo