MOSUL, Iraq - An Iraqi protester set himself ablaze on Sunday in a dramatic turn in more than three weeks of rallies by Sunni Muslims challenging Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government.
Thousands of Sunni demonstrators have rallied since late December against a Shi'ite-led government they believe has marginalized their minority sect, raising fears the OPEC country may slide again into widespread sectarian confrontation.
During protests of around 2,000 demonstrators in the northern city of Mosul, one man set himself ablaze before others quickly stamped out the flames with their jackets, police said. He was sent to hospital with burns to his face and hands.
"We don't want people to hang themselves or burn themselves, this would be against Islam," said Ghanim al-Abid, protest organizer in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad. "But he reached such a state of despair he set himself on fire."