The incident sparked anger across Egypt after it was initially reported by several media outlets as a sex crime.
A man has set himself on fire in central Cairo’s Tahrir Square and was being treated for burns at a hospital in the capital, security sources said.
There was no immediate official comment on the incident that happened on Thurday.
Videos circulating on social media appeared to show Mohammed Hosni filming himself as he walked along the street and then in the square – the epicentre of Egypt’s 2011 revolution – complaining about alleged corruption in the country.
Dressed in a suit and tie, he started shouting before setting fire to his clothes at the end of the 20-minute video which he broadcast live on Facebook.
“يا بلدنا يا تكية ماسكينك شوية حرامية”
مواطن يضرم النار في جسده بميدان التحرير بعد فصله من العمل وتهديده بالسجن لكشفه قضايا فساد pic.twitter.com/Ral7nciOVs
— شبكة رصد (@RassdNewsN) November 12, 2020
“People of my country, the richest country in the world, the best country in the world … it’s held by thieves,” he could be heard yelling in the video.
“They are all corrupt, all of them are thieves,” he said, referring to the country’s ruling elite.
Another video taken from a balcony overlooking the square showed security guards and bystanders rushing to put out the flames with water and loose clothes.
فيديو المواطن المصري اللي حرق نفسه في ميدان التحرير 😔😔 pic.twitter.com/BNMvrmW2Ly
— Noha Abdo (@NohaAbd02779097) November 12, 2020
Al Jazeera could not independently verify the videos.
The security officer, who could not be named, alleged that Hosni had been recently released from jail for criminal cases, but gave no further details.
A source from Cairo’s security directorate said Hosni was under guard at a local hospital, where he had told officials that he worked at Egypt’s Central Auditing Organisation.
The security officer accused the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood of exploiting Hosni. In the video, however, Hosni said he was not a Brotherhood member.
Authorities have arrested thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members since the 2013 military overthrow of late President Mohamed Morsi.
The group has consistently denied any link to violence, but Egypt’s authorities call it a “terrorist” organisation.
“The terrorist Muslim Brotherhood is exploiting one of its psychologically troubled members, forcing him to burn his clothes in an effort to foment chaos,” the security source said.
Security in Tahrir Square, home to the mass demonstrations that toppled former longtime President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, is closely monitored.
Authorities have clamped down on public acts of protest amid a crackdown on civil society and free speech under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who took power in 2013 following Morsi’s overthrow.
Egypt has been under a renewable state of emergency since 2017, a measure that rights groups say has allowed the government to crush dissent.
Scores of outspoken Egyptians have either been exiled or imprisoned in the past years, including prominent activists, lawyers and journalists.