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Self-immolation cases in Egypt and Mauritania follow Tunisian incident

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Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, January 17, 2011; 5:53 PM

BEIRUT - Demonstrators set themselves on fire Monday in Egypt, Mauritania and Algeria in nonfatal actions apparently intended to replicate the self-immolation of an unemployed Tunisian man, which sparked protests that ultimately ousted the country's leader.

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The fall of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the president of Tunisia, has resonated across the region among young Middle Easterners, most of whom have lived under autocratic rule for their entire lives. Many in the region are dealing with the same inflation and joblessness that prompted a revolution in Tunisia.

In Cairo, a man identified as Abdou Abdel Monaam Hamdeh apparently torched himself over a government policy to bar restaurant owners from buying subsidized bread, requiring them instead to purchase regularly priced bread at five times the amount.

A Mauritanian man angry at his government also set himself on fire Monday, according to the Associated Press. Yacoub Ould Dahoud, 43, drove to a government building in the capital, Nouakchott, and set himself on fire in his car, the AP reported.

The men were probably copying the actions of Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old college-educated man in Tunisia who set himself on fire after police took away fruits and vegetables he was selling. Bouazizi's death became the catalyst for the revolution among Tunisian youths.

Two men also set themselves on fire in Algeria on Monday, the latest in a string of self-immolations there since Saturday, according to the AP.

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