August 6, 2015 / 2:20 PM / 3 years ago

Explosion in eastern Iraq cuts power line from Iran

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An explosion targeting a power installation in eastern Iraq has disrupted the flow of electricity from neighboring Iran, the electricity ministry said on Thursday, aggravating energy shortages amid a weeks-long heatwave.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the overnight blast against the Mirsad electrical line in a desert region about 20 km (12 miles) west of the town of Mandali in Diyala province. Officials said it had reduced capacity by 400 megawatts.

Ministry spokesman Musab al-Mudaris said an improvised explosive device had been planted under the power installation.

“Such an act of course targets civilians and their comfort, especially with the rising temperatures,” he told Reuters. “It also aims to agitate civilians against the Electricity Ministry and in turn the government.”

Mudaris added that the line had previously been targeted about a dozen times.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a Shi’ite Muslim who took office nearly a year ago, is under pressure to improve security and economic conditions while navigating a polarized political landscape.

Iraq’s electricity grid has been worn down by years of war and under-investment. It will probably supply only 11,000 megawatts of Iraq’s 21,000-megawatt peak demand this summer, the electricity minister said last month.

Temperatures surpassing 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) across Iraq in recent days have exacerbated regular summer power shortages and prompted the government to declare a four-day holiday last weekend.

Iraqis demanding electricity, jobs and government reforms have staged protests in the capital and southern cities in recent weeks, underlining the pressures on a Baghdad government struggling to fend off radical insurgents.

Reporting by Saif Hameed; Writing by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Gareth Jones

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