Middle East

The death toll from a Basra market blast rises to 43

Rescuers rush victims of a bomb attack in Basra to hospital (7 August 2010)
Image caption The blast was originally thought to be from an exploding generator

The death toll from a series of explosions in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on Saturday has risen to 43, officials have said.

One blast was initially reported to have been caused by an exploding generator, but officials now say it was a roadside bomb.

Two car bombs were also used in the co-ordinated attack, they said.

In a separate incident on Sunday, a suicide bomb blast killed six people in the city of Ramadi east of the Baghdad.

The car bomb was detonated at a petrol station near a post office where people were queuing to receive social welfare payments, reports said.

Badly burned

In Basra, 185 people were confirmed to have been wounded in the attack, hospital officials told reporters.

Families of the dead have not been able to identify their relatives' bodies because many are too badly burned, the news agency Reuters reported.

The bomb, believed to have been placed under an electricity generator, sparked a fire which swept through the al-Ashaar market in the city 550km (340 miles) from Baghdad.

"The attack that hit Basra yesterday evening was the result of terrorist action," Basra security chief Ali al-Maliki was quoted as saying.

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

Ramadi is the provincial capital of Anbar, a stronghold for Sunni insurgents.

The attacks are the latest to prompt concerns about security in Iraq, with US combat troops due to leave the country by the end of this month.

The US aims to reduce its presence to 50,000 non-combat troops by the end of August, in preparation for a full military departure by 2012.

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