Middle East

Deadly 'generator' blast hits south Iraq city of Basra

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Media captionThe injured were taken from the scene in ambulances

An explosion, said to have been caused by a power generator, has killed at least 14 people and injured at least 35 in a market in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

Injured people were rushed from the scene in ambulances after the explosion in the al-Ashaar market in the city 550km (340 miles) from Baghdad.

Reports say there may have been two explosions at the market.

Police officials said a power generator had malfunctioned.

Private communal generators are common in Iraq, where demand for electricity dramatically outstrips supply, forcing the use of unpopular rationing, AFP news agency notes.

Chronic power shortages triggered protests across the country over the summer, including in Basra, where two people died in June when police opened fire on protesters.

The country's electricity minister resigned later that month.

Basra, the main city in the largely Shia Muslim south of Iraq, has been comparatively free of insurgent violence this year.

'Women and children'

Eyewitnesses said they had heard at least two explosions in the popular market, which was crowded at the time.

Two police officials who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity blamed the explosions not on a generator, but a roadside bomb and a car bomb.

Women and children and petty vendors were among the casualties, a local politician told Reuters news agency.

A man could be heard shouting: "Two of my brothers have been killed."

Distraught bystanders blamed the carnage on Iraq's leaders, who have been unable to agree on a new coalition government since the election five months ago.

"Why do they not agree, while the victims are falling down?" one man was quoted as saying by AP.

"The politicians are after posts and chairs. Reach an agreement, you traitors."

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