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Moroccan father of five burns self to death: activist

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View of an agricultural area near the city of Meknes, central Morocco on January 13, 2009. A Moroccan father of five died after setting himself on fire in the central Meknes region in protest at having his application for a residency permit rejected, a human rights activist said on Tuesday. (AFP/File)

A Moroccan father of five died after setting himself on fire in the central Meknes region in protest at having his application for a residency permit rejected, a human rights activist said on Tuesday.

The incident took place on Monday in the town of Sebaa Ayoun, where Abdelkabir al-Atawi, 50, needed the permit to avoid having to pay the hospital fees for his wife who was sick, said Habid Benkarroun, the Meknes representative for the Moroccan Association of Human Rights.

"The man went to apply for a residency permit but he was refused. So he covered himself with petrol and set himself on fire," outside the main administrative building in Sebaa Ayoun, and died shortly afterwards, Benkarroun told AFP.

The man was unable to pay for his wife's hospital treatment because he had no job and no money, he added.

Moroccan Arabic news websites confirmed that the victim was Abdelkabir al-Atawi, a father of five who staged his dramatic protest out of frustration at the behaviour of the local authorities.

Morocco has witnessed numerous self-immolations, especially by unemployed graduates, since the start of the Arab Spring uprisings, which began in Tunisia in December 2010 when a street vendor set himself on fire in an extreme act of protest against police harassment.

Political reforms introduced in Morocco in 2011 followed by snap parliamentary elections largely succeeded in defusing mass protests that swept the kingdom.

But popular discontent remains amid extreme social inequality, corruption and a bloated civil service, with jobless youths frequently protesting in the capital.