Three more Egyptians set themselves alight on Friday, apparently inspired by an act of self-immolation in Tunisia that prompted protests that led to the ousting of the president. An unemployed 35-year-old Egyptian set himself alight and was seriously wounded, security and medical sources said.
Two workers from firms in Egypt's textile sector, an industry from which many factory workers have led the most violent demonstrations against the government in recent years, also poured fuel over themselves and set themselves ablaze.
There were three other cases of self-immolation, although witnesses and sources said they were mainly motivated by psychological reasons rather than political protest.
Analysts say several self-immolation cases or attempted acts in Egypt, now numbering more than a dozen, seem to be driven by broadly similar complaints to those that drove Tunisians to the streets and toppled their president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.
While they say there is no sign yet of momentum building towards a broader uprising that could overwhelm Egypt's vast security apparatus, Tunisia's events have attracted broad attention and vigorous calls on the web for political change. Self-immolations have also been reported in Algeria and Mauritania.
The unemployed 35-year-old, Salah Saad Mahmoud, moved to Cairo in search of work to save enough money to own a home and marry but has instead been living off small day wages, security sources said.
He set himself on fire in the middle of the street, before being put out by bystanders, the sources added.
Arabs in Egypt and many other regional states complain of many of the same problems that drove Tunisians to protest, such as soaring prices of basic goods, a lack of jobs, poverty and repression by authoritarian governments.
A strike in December 2006 by thousands of spinning factory employees led to concessions on pay and bonuses, encouraging a wave of strikes and other protests across Egypt since. Protests in Tunisia erupted after the suicide of 26-year-old vegetable trader Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire on Dec. 17 because police seized his grocery cart.
Egypt's state-backed al-Azhar has warned those considering such an act that suicide, for any reason, is banned in Islam. Mosques around the country gave Friday prayer sermons on Islam's ban of suicide.
Egyptian officials have sought to play down the possibility of Tunisia's uprising spreading.