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Fire Spreading? Man Ablaze Before Egyptian Parliament

Two men set themselves on fire Monday, one in Egypt and one in Mauritania, echoing the protester in Tunisia whose desperation toppled a government.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 1/17/2011, 9:15 PM / Last Update: 1/17/2011, 9:35 PM

Two men set themselves on fire Monday, one in Egypt and one in Mauritania, echoing the protester in Tunisia whose desperation has toppled a government.

An Egyptian man set himself ablaze standing outside the nation's parliamentary building in central Cairo. Egyptian police officers guarding the building rushed to put out the flames with fire extinguishers that they took from the building.

The protester was transported to the local hospital following the incident. Security officials said most of the burns he suffered were on his face.

Security officials said the man was apparently echoing the protest carried out last month by a Tunisian man that ignited a popular uprising in that nation last week resulting in at least two changes in government in less than a week, with possibly more to come.

In that incident, 26-year-old university graduate Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire after police confiscated the fruits and vegetables that he was selling, because he had no permit. He died hours later in hospital. Less than a week later, massive protests rocked the streets of the nation, toppling the 23-year reign of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Unrest Spreading in Middle East
Monday's Egyptian act of self-immolation was not the only one, however: two others were also inspired to set incendiary examples as well.

On the same day, a Mauritanian citizen ignited himself in front of that nation's presidential palace, police sources told a Reuters reporter.

According to witnesses, the 40-year-old entrepreneur soaked himself in gasoline while sitting in his locked car and then ignited the fire. Security forces and passersby broke the windows of his car to pull him out and rush him to the hospital.

The man, identified as Abdou Abdel-Hamid, who reportedly came from a wealthy family, was protesting a government policy that prevents restaurant owners from buying subsidized bread to resell to their patrons. The typical Egyptian flat bread which sells to consumers at a about a penny a loaf, sells for about five times that price to restaurant owners.

Officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media, said Abdel-Hamid owned a small restaurant in Qantara, close to the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, east of Cairo.

Last Thursday, a 37-year-old man set himself on fire in Algeria, in a village near the Tunisian border, 700 km east of the capital, Algiers, the country's El Khabar daily newspaper reported.

The man, Mohsen Bouterfif, was allegedly driven to the deed after being told by the mayor of Boukhadra that he could not give him a job and a house. He died Saturday in the hospital.

Some 100 young men marched in protest over Bouterfif's death, prompting the governor of Tebessa province to fire the mayor. Riots have swept through several Algerian towns and cities in recent weeks, leaving two dead and scores wounded over rising food prices and spiraling unemployment.