Middle East

Man sets himself on fire in Cairo protest

A surgeon (seen in shadow) shows video of Abdu Abdel-Monaim at a Cairo hospital, 17 January
Image caption Mr Abdel-Monaim is being treated for minor burns, doctors and officials say

A man has set himself on fire outside the parliament building in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

He shouted anti-government slogans before pouring fuel on his clothes and setting himself alight, witnesses said.

Policemen nearby managed to put out the flames, and the man is now in a stable condition in hospital, officials said.

The action echoes that of a 26-year-old Tunisian whose self-immolation sparked a wave of protest in the country that brought down the government.

Also on Monday, a Mauritanian man said to be unhappy with the government there was taken to hospital after setting himself on fire.

Bread dispute

The man in Cairo has been identified as Abdu Abdel-Monaim Kamal, a 50-year-old restaurant owner and father of four from the city of Ismailia, east of the capital.

The website of Egypt's leading Al-Ahram daily said he had repeatedly held heated arguments with local officials over the price of bread.

A health ministry spokesman said Mr Abdel-Monaim would probably be released within 48 hours, after being treated for superficial burns, mostly to his chest, neck, hands and legs.

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo says that security is tight at the hospital, in order to prevent any outbreak of protests.

Following the Tunisian unrest, the incident will be ringing alarm bells in the Egyptian government, our correspondent adds.

'Mood of despair'

Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid in mid-December, after police prevented him from selling vegetables without a permit. He died in early January.

His action was followed by weeks of increasingly violent protests across Tunisia over unemployment, corruption and high food prices which resulted in the resignation of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali last week.

Many in Egypt have voiced the same grievances as the Tunisians.

There are deep economic problems in Egypt and the prices of some basic food items, such as tomatoes, are notoriously high, our correspondent says.

An Egyptian Facebook group has called for street protests on 25 January, which the organisers are calling a "day of revolution against torture, poverty, corruption and unemployment".

But despite popular support for the Tunisian demonstrations, there have so far been no similar large-scale protests in Egypt, says our correspondent.

The overwhelming mood of the country is despair and hopelessness - not anger - and after decades of repression, many Egyptians do not believe that they can change things through protests, he adds.

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