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Young jobless man sets himself alight in Tunisia

GRAPHIC WARNING : This story contains a graphic image that some viewers may find disturbing.

TUNIS, Tunisia — A jobless young man set himself on fire in the center of Tunis on Tuesday in a gesture recalling the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, whose death ignited a revolt in Tunisia that echoed across the Arab world.

Security forces and bystanders tried to extinguish the flames before the man was rushed to a hospital, witnesses said.

"He is in very critical condition," a medical source in Mourouj hospital said, giving no further details.

The incident occurred hours before Prime Minister-designate Ali Larayedh was due to seek a confidence vote for his new Islamist-led government from the National Constituent Assembly.

The man burned himself outside the municipal theater in the capital's main Habib Bourguiba Avenue, the focus for protests that toppled President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali two years ago.

An Interior Ministry official did not name the man, but said he was aged 27, hailed from the northwestern city of Jandouba and had been looking for a job for a long time.

Tunisia's unemployment rate stands at about 17 percent, with graduates forming a large proportion of the jobless total.

Several Tunisians have set themselves ablaze in the past two years in protests emulating that of Bouazizi, a street vendor who torched himself on Dec. 17, 2010, in the town of Sidi Bouzid after a policewoman confiscated his fruit cart.

A young Tunisian man who set himself on fire is transported to an ambulance in the capital, Tunis, on Tuesday.

Bouazizi's death sparked protests that ended with Ben Ali's overthrow and inspired rebellions elsewhere in the Middle East that collectively became known as the Arab Spring.

The economic and social problems that fueled Tunisia's uprising have yet to be solved in a country now deeply polarized between Islamists and their opponents.

The last government, led by Hamadi Jebali, collapsed after the premier's own moderate Islamist Ennahda party rejected his plan for a technocrat cabinet to lead Tunisia into elections.


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