Tunisian who sparked rare protests dies: relatives

Wed Jan 5, 2011 10:49am GMT
 

TUNIS (Reuters) - A young Tunisian whose attempted suicide by self-immolation sparked a rare wave of violent protests in several areas of the country died on Tuesday of his injuries, his relatives said.

Mohammed Bouazizi, 26, set fire to himself last month in front of a government building in the central town of Sidi Bouzid to protest against the confiscation by police of his fruit and vegetable cart.

The incident was embraced as a cause by jobless graduates, trade unionists and human right activists, and the protests later spread to other towns including the capital, Tunis.

His brother Salem told Reuters: "Mohammed passed away (Tuesday) .. May God have mercy on his soul".

Bouazizi is the fourth person to have died in the protests.

Two civilians were killed after police fired in "self-defence" to quell rioters in the southern town of Bouziane. According to French reports, a jobless graduate also killed himself by clinging to a high-voltage electric cable to protest against "misery and unemployment".

Protests have been rare in Tunisia, a country hailed by Western allies as a model of stability and prosperity in the Arab world, and one which has had only two presidents since independence from France 55 years ago.

Tunisia has been ruled for the last 23 years by Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who works closely with Western governments to combat al Qaeda militants.

The government has accused its opponents of manipulating the Sidi Bouzid clashes last month to discredit the authorities, and Ben Ali said that violent protests were unacceptable and would hurt national interests.

The wave of protests had died down after Ben Ali named a new youth minister in a minor government reshuffle -- the second in 2010 -- and a new governor for Sidi Bouzid. Official media said he had also ordered that 6.5 billion dinars be provided to cut graduate unemployment, now at around 25 percent.

Tunisia has become a regional focus of attention for financial institutions since announcing a plan to complete current account convertibility during 2010-12, and full dinar convertibility in 2013-14.

 
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