Self-immolations in Egypt, Mauritania


Two men have set themselves on fire in Egypt and Mauritania in echoes of the suicide that triggered the uprising in Tunisia.

A man set himself on fire today near Egypt's parliament in Cairo in an apparent protest against poor living standards. A witness, who worked in parliament, said the man poured fuel over himself and then set himself alight when people tried to approach him. The flames were put out and he was taken to hospital, the witness said.

An interior ministry source said the man was the owner of a small restaurant. Another security source said his wounds were mainly to his hands and face but that the severity was not immediately clear.

In Mauritania, a man set himself on fire in front of the West African state's presidential palace. The man, described as a 40-year-old entrepreneur from a wealthy family, was protesting over alleged government mistreatment of his tribe, police sources said.

Witnesses said he doused himself in petrol while sitting in his locked car and set himself on fire before security forces and passers-by broke the car windows to remove him. He was taken to hospital where his condition is not known.

The protests that brought down Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali erupted after the self-immolation of 26-year-old vegetable seller Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire on December 17th because police seized his vegetable cart.

Mr Bouazizi died weeks later of his burns, becoming a martyr to crowds of students and the unemployed protesting against poor living conditions. The demonstrations have stunned ordinary Arabs with images of an autocrat being toppled.

Analysts, opposition figures and ordinary people have warned the Tunisian revolt may prove contagious. Like Tunisians, many Arabs are frustrated by soaring prices, poverty, high unemployment, a bulging population and systems of rule that ignore their voices.