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TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisian police fired tear gas to break up rioting by hundreds of protesters who took to the streets after a fruit seller set himself on fire when police stopped him working, local residents said.

In an incident similar to the self-immolation in 2011 that sparked the uprising that toppled autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, the street vendor in a small town west of the capital poured gasoline over himself and set it ablaze.

A crowd of young men in Tebourba, about 35 km (22 miles) from Tunis, then threw rocks at police.

"Hundreds of angry youths have clashed with police who have been firing tear gas," said Anis Mabrouki, a local resident.

The vendor was being treated for his injuries in hospital.

The economic malaise and frustration that helped fuel the 2011 uprising against Ben Ali still simmers in Tunisia especially in marginalised central and southern regions where unemployed youths say they have few opportunities.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Patrick Markey and Robin Pomeroy)

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