By Hamza Hendawi /AP
CAIRO: An Egyptian man set himself on fire Monday outside the country’s parliament building in central Cairo in an apparent protest, security officials said.
The incident appeared to be an attempt to copy the self-immolation last month of a 26-year-old Tunisian, whose death triggered the protests that have toppled Tunisia’s authoritarian regime.
Egyptian security officials said policemen guarding the parliament building used fire extinguishers to put out the blaze engulfing the man, who was later taken to the hospital.
The officials identified the man as Abdou Abdel-Hamid, a small restaurant owner from Qantara, an area close to the Suez Canal city of Ismailia east of Cairo. They had no information on his motive.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
Self-immolation as a method of protest is uncommon in Egypt, although women in rural and poor urban areas have been known to set themselves on fire to protest violent husbands, abusive parents or an unwanted suitor.
News of the Tunisian uprising has dominated the Egyptian media over the past few days, with opposition and independent newspapers lauding the fall of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and drawing parallels between his regime and that of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled for nearly 30 years.
Egypt has been posting impressive economic growth rates over the past few years, thanks to a host of ambitious reforms. But the growth has failed to filter down to many of the estimated 80 million Egyptians.
Nearly half of all Egyptians live under or just below the poverty line set by the UN at $2 a day. Mubarak and his ruling National Democratic Party have been pledging to ensure that the fruits of economic reforms benefit more Egyptians.