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June 3, 2010

THESSALONIKI, Greece, June 3, 2010 (AFP)
A 54-year-old man set himself on fire inside a bank in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki over unpaid debts, police said Thursday.

The man walked into a Piraeus Bank branch on Wednesday carrying a gasoline cannister, the police said.

According to witnesses, he shouted “I will destroy you, just as you destroyed me” before pouring the gasoline on himself and the floor, giving a brief countdown and setting it on fire.

Police summoned to the scene extinguished the flames and but the man was taken away unconscious.

A source at Ippokrateio Hospital said the man suffered first-degree burns on nearly half his body but was in stable condition. Nobody else was injured.

Piraeus Bank said its “former client” had debts going back over 15 years which had been written off in 2008 but hinted that he may have had other financial problems.

“The settlement of other professional or personal issues and obligations is beyond our abilities,” the bank said in a statement, expressing sorrow over the incident.

Thousands of Greeks face financial hardship and job uncertainty amid a growing recession and a major debt crisis which has forced the government to impose tough austerity measures to clinch an EU-IMF bailout loan.

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