x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Egyptian man sets himself ablaze in central Cairo

Police and passing motorists douse flames with fire extinguishers and restaurant owner is taken to hospital with light burns after self-immolation protest.

CAIRO // An Egyptian man set himself on fire today outside the country's parliament, security officials said, in an apparent protest emulating the self-immolation of an unemployed Tunisian man last month that helped trigger a popular uprising.

Egyptian security officials said policemen guarding the parliament building in central Cairo and motorists driving by at the time used fire extinguishers to quickly douse the blaze engulfing the man. A health ministry spokesman, Abdel Rahman Shahine, said the man was taken to hospital with light burns, mostly to his face, neck and legs.

The officials identified the man as Abdou Abdel Monaam Hamadah, 48, the owner of a small restaurant in Qantara, an area close to the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, east of Cairo. They said Mr Hamadah was protesting against a government policy preventing restaurant owners from buying cheap subsidised bread to resell to their patrons.

Mr Hamadah's act follows similar acts in Algeria and Tunisia. Last month, Mohamed Bouazizi, 26, a Tunisian with a university degree who set himself on fire after police confiscated the fruits and vegetables he was selling without a permit. He later died in a hospital near Tunis, and his desperate act touched a nerve with educated, unemployed youths nationwide in Tunisia, and sparked the mass protests that toppled the president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Meanwhile Egyptian stocks posted their biggest drop in seven months and the Egyptian pound dipped to its weakest against the dollar in almost six years yesterday as investors grew concerned that political turmoil in Tunisia could spread to Egypt.

Rachid Mohamed Rachid, Egypt's trade and industry minister, said there were no "quick solutions" to rising prices and that investment in Arab countries must increase.

"We are aware of the big pressures which Arab countries are facing due to increasing prices but there are no quick solutions," Mr Rachid said at a conference in Sharm El Sheikh. "The solution is investment."