Suicide fire ignites new wave of popular anger in Algeria

Violence is spreading

ALGIERS - At least 30 people, including police, were injured during clashes at Tiaret in Algeria after the funeral of a man who burned himself to death, the Arabic-language daily El-Khabar reported Thursday.
The violence began on Tuesday afternoon after the burial of Hichem Gacem, who died of his wounds on Monday, and clashes between local people and the security forces went on throughout the night.
Tiaret is 340 kilometres (210 miles) west of Algiers.
Then on Wednesday, trouble spread to the nearby towns of Sougueur and Rahaouiya, where young people blocked several roads and clashed with security forces.
In Tiaret, hundreds of youths stoned the police, who riposted with tear-gas. Several policemen were among the injured. Rioters also ransacked several public buildings.
Gacem, a young seller of spectacles, poured petrol over himself and set himself ablaze on Janauary 26 after an altercation with a police officer, who kicked over his stall, according to media reports.
He was rushed to hospital in the large western city of Oran, where he eventually died.
Self-immolation attempts have become increasingly frequent in Algeria since January last year, including among high school children. The press has reported several dozen sometimes successful bids at suicide by fire, without giving precise numbers.
In neighbouring Tunisia, it was the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, a fruit and vegetable seller, on December 17, 2010, that gave the impetus to a campaign of civil disobedience that led to the fall of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years in power.
That marked the beginning of the Arab Spring, which has also led to regime change in Egypt and Libya, with protests elsewhere.