Three Moroccans self-immolate during protest by unemployed university graduates

The three Moroccans doused themselves in fuel in front of an education ministry compound in Rabat. (File photo)

Three young unemployed Moroccans set themselves alight during a protest in the capital Rabat, medical sources told AFP Friday, adding that their burns were not life-threatening.

The incident took place Wednesday on the sidelines of an ongoing protest by unemployed university graduates, the latest in a string of self-immolations across the region since the start of the Arab Spring more than a year ago.

The three were initially taken to a hospital in Rabat but were later transferred to a unit in Casablanca, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south along the coast, due to the seriousness of the burns one of them suffered.

“One of them has second degree burns and both are still being treated in hospital but their wounds are not life-threatening,” a nurse at the hospital there said.

The three, between their twenties and thirties, doused themselves in fuel in front of an education ministry compound in Rabat on Wednesday.

The sequence -- during which baton-wielding police can be seen trying to prevent food supplies being delivered to the sit-in protestors -- was captured on video and has been posted on social networking websites.

“They wanted to self-immolate because security forces have tightened their siege on the sit-in by preventing food from reaching the protestors,” Jawad, a young unemployed demonstrator, said.

Thousands of Moroccans holding university degrees and seeking jobs in the civil service have been demonstrating almost daily to voice their frustration at the lack of employment prospects.

Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, whose Islamist party won November polls called early by the king to pre-empt swelling Arab Spring-inspired protests, has vowed his new government would address their grievances.

“The new executive’s first self-immolations,” read a headline in Morocco’s Liberation newspaper.

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