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Man Sets Himself On Fire At Rome Airport

Passengers have spoken of their shock after a man set himself alight at Rome's main airport.

The 19-year-old man, from the Ivory Coast, doused himself in petrol and set himself on fire in front of dozens of travellers and workers at Fiumicino airport, 10 miles west of the Italian capital.

Police said he arrived at the departures area of the airport's terminal three with a deportation order, and had been due to leave Italy.

But as he spoke to police he suddenly pulled out a plastic bottle of petrol, tipped it over himself and ran off through the terminal.

Officers gave chase, but he then used a lighter to ignite the fuel in front of stunned passengers.

Pasquale Pierri, 43, who was due to catch a flight to London, told Sky News: "I was heading to check in when all of a sudden I heard screaming and shouting.

"The next thing I saw was the police surrounding someone and there was a horrible smell of smoke in the air.

"People were screaming because no one knew what had happened and I think the first suggestion was that it might have been a terror attack."

Fellow traveller Silvana Urso said: "There was a lot of shouting and police running after someone, that was all I saw.

"There was a smell of smoke and then police were telling us to evacuate the terminal because there had been an incident.

"It was only when I was outside that I heard a man had set himself on fire."

One policeman grabbed a fire extinguisher to douse the flames and was slightly injured.

Paramedics wrapped the man in specialist blankets before taking him away in an ambulance.

A spokesman at the Sant'Eugenio hospital where he was being treated said he was in a "serious condition with extensive burns".

The officer who tackled him was said to have a slight burn to his right arm but was otherwise uninjured.

Officials said the airport remained open and only a small section of the terminal was closed before it reopened after an hour. There were no significant delays for passengers.

A Rome police spokesman said: "We are investigating the circumstances of the incident which involved a 19-year-old man from the Ivory Coast.

"He was due to leave the country after being served an expulsion order but set himself alight. One of our officers was slightly hurt as he tackled him.

"Scientific teams are at the airport examining the scene and officers will also speak to the man when possible."

A spokesman for the Italian Refugee Council confirmed that the man had arrived in Italy from Holland earlier this week and had tried to claim asylum but had been denied and was ordered out of the country.

He had been due to board a flight to Amsterdam when he set fire to himself. The spokesman added: "One can only imagine the desperation and frustration he must have faced to carry out such an act."