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A 39-year-old man has been formally charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault after his ex-wife was allegedly set on fire in Quebec City.

Local police say the man was arraigned in Quebec City over the phone Sunday morning.

He is accused of setting fire to his ex-wife on Friday night in the city's St-Sauveur neighbourhood as her young children and mother watched.

Witnesses described the woman screaming in pain as people helped tear off her fiery clothes and tried to smother the flames with a blanket.

Sgt. Etienne Doyon of the Quebec City police told reporters on Saturday that the 27-year-old victim was in critical condition after suffering major injuries to her face, back and hands.

The man was arrested about 150 kilometres southwest of the provincial capital on Saturday and is being kept in detention until his case returns to court on Monday.