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Tunisians protest in southern town after man sets himself alight

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TUNIS (Reuters) – Tunisian police used tear gas to disperse dozens of protesters who blocked roads in the southern town of Jelma on Saturday following the death of a young man who burned himself to death, witnesses said.

Abdelwahed Hablani, 25, set himself on fire and died in hospital on Friday in protest at poverty and poor living conditions, echoing the 2010 self immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi, whose death triggered the Arab Spring.

The protesters on Saturday afternoon burnt tyres before police intervened to reopen roads, firing tear gas canisters, the witnesses said, but the demonstrations were continuing late into Saturday evening.

Hablani had occasional work as a casual labourer in Jelma, located near Bouazizi’s home city of Sidi Bouzid in Tunisia’s deeply impoverished interior. He was buried on Saturday.

Since Bouazizi’s death in December 2010, numerous young men have followed his example by setting themselves alight in the face of Tunisia’s chronic economic difficulties.

Mass protests that followed Bouazizi’s funeral resulted in January 2011 in a revolution that pushed from power the veteran autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who died in exile in Saudi Arabia in September, and introduced democracy.

Tunisia held free presidential and parliamentary elections in September and October, but economic frustrations and perceived failures of repeated elected governments to improve state services led voters to largely reject the major parties.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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