By Lamine Chikhi/ Reuters
ALGIERS: A man has died after setting himself on fire at a government building in Algeria, state radio reported on Sunday, echoing the self-immolation that triggered the protests that toppled the leader of neighboring Tunisia.
Mohsen Bouterfif doused himself in gasoline and set himself on fire on Thursday after a meeting with the mayor of the small city of Boukhadra who was unable to provide him a job and a house, the daily El Khabar newspaper said. He died on Saturday of his burns.
About 100 young men protested over Mohsen’s death in the town, in Tebessa province, 700 km east of Algiers. The governor of the province sacked the mayor, El Khabar said.
Several Algerian towns, including the capital Algiers, have experienced riots in recent weeks over unemployment and a sharp rise in the prices of food staples.
Official sources say two people have been killed and scores were injured during the unrest, which unfolded in parallel to street violence in Tunisia and demonstrations over high food prices in other North African and Middle Eastern countries.
To calm the protests, Algeria has cut the cost of sugar and cooking oil.
The fall of Tunisian President Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali on Friday — the first time in generations that an Arab leader has been toppled by public protests — sent a sharp signal to the rest of the region, dominated by autocratic regimes.
The protests that brought down Ben Ali erupted after the self-immolation of 26-year-old vegetable seller Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire on Dec. 17 because police had confiscated his vegetable cart. Bouazizi died weeks later of his burns, becoming a martyr to crowds of students and the unemployed protesting against poor living conditions.