TUNIS — A jobless man set himself afire Thursday in front of the main government office of the poor Tunisian province of Gafsa as three ministers visited the unemployment-hit area, local sources said.
The man was taken to hospital with severe burns and in a critical state, unionist Amar Amroussia said.
"The situation is very worrying and risks degenerating," he said, adding that there had already been clashes between locals and security officials.
The man, a 48-year-old father of three, was part of a group of unemployed men staging a sit-in in front of the main government office to demand jobs.
"He wanted to meet the team of ministers visiting Gafsa but did not get an answer," a local source said.
A witness added: "He then poured petrol on himself and set himself alight, without saying anything."
The three visiting ministers hold the social affairs, industry and employment portfolios.
Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian fruit seller unwittingly started a wave of protests known as the Arab Spring, when he set himself alight in the town of Sidi Bouzid in December 2010, in protest against harassment by officials, and died from his burns in early January.
His actions sparked a revolt that toppled president Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali and ignited protests across the region which ultimately led to the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi.