A man who set himself afire Monday just outside a White House gate worked for the FBI as an informant, the Washington Post reported, and was distraught over his inability to return to Yemen to visit his critically ill wife.
Mohamed Alanssi, 52, arrived at the White House gate just before 2pm Monday with a letter addressed to President George W. Bush. After talking briefly with uniformed Secret Service officers, he pulled a lighter from his pocket and set his clothing ablaze. Although the officers acted quickly to extinguish the flames, emergency medical technicians said he suffered burns on his hands, neck and face.
"I can confirm that there was an ignitable liquid present on the scene," said Alan Etter, a spokesman for the DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department. Alanssi was taken to a hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.
The Post reported that Alanssi, who also used the name Mohamed Alhadrami, had informed the newspaper of his plans early Monday. He told the newspaper by fax and telephone that he was "going to burn my body at unexpected place." He also faxed a letter to an FBI agent in New York who has had contact with him, the Post reported.
Last year, Alanssi was the subject of a Washington Post story describing his role as an informant for the FBI, providing information on terrorist financiers in Yemen.
Alanssi told the Post in recent interviews that he was upset because he could not travel to Yemen to visit his ailing wife, who has stomach cancer. He also said the FBI had not kept promises it made to him to secure his assistance.
The investigation into Monday's incident is being handled jointly by the Secret Service and the US Park Police, which has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania Avenue immediately outside the White House fence.
A Secret Service spokeswoman, said the man "set himself on fire on Pennsylvania Avenue on the north side of the White House complex."