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MIDEAST > Man sets self on fire in central Tunis

TUNIS - Agence France-Presse

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A file picture dated March 5, 2011 shows Tunisian students cleaning a wall covered in graffiti in the square in the Kasbah neighbourhood of Sidi Bouzid after Tunisian inhabitants and protesters were evacuated from the area in front of the government palace in Tunis. AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAID

A file picture dated March 5, 2011 shows Tunisian students cleaning a wall covered in graffiti in the square in the Kasbah neighbourhood of Sidi Bouzid after Tunisian inhabitants and protesters were evacuated from the area in front of the government palace in Tunis. AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAID

A man set himself on fire Tuesday in central Tunis, an AFP reporter witnessed, hours before the country's lawmakers were to vote on a new government tasked with pulling Tunisia out of a deep political crisis.

"This is a young man who sells cigarettes because of unemployment," shouted the man before immolating himself on Habib Bourguiba avenue in front of the municipal building, according to a witness.

"Allahu Akbar! (God is greatest!)" said the badly burned man who was still conscious as he was rushed to hospital by emergency services, the witness said.

Passersby rushed to douse the flames but not before the man, believed to be in his 20s, had suffered serious burn wounds.

Police officers and firefighters refused to reveal information about the man.

The number of people committing suicide or attempting to take their own lives has multiplied in Tunisia since a young street vendor set himself on fire on December 17, 2010, in a drastic act of protest against police harassment.

Mohamed Bouazizi's death in the town of Sidi Bouzid ignited a mass uprising that toppled ex-dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali the following month and touched off the Arab Spring uprisings.

Economic and social difficulties were the key factors that brought down Ben Ali's regime and two years since his ouster unemployment and poverty continue to plague the north African country.

Tunisia has also been struggling to emerge from a political crisis exacerbated by the daylight murder on February 6 murder of Chokri Belaid, a leftist opposition leader.

Later Tuesday, premier-designate Ali Larayedh was to seek a vote of confidence on his new cabinet line-up from lawmakers in the National Constituent Assembly.

March/12/2013

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