BAGHDAD — Explosions killed at least 20 people and wounded as many as 100 Saturday night at a downtown market in Iraq's second-largest city, a senior official said, coming at the end of a violent day that also saw the slaying of seven policemen around the country.
It was the latest spate of attacks to come as all but 50,000 U.S. military troops head home by the end of the month.
Deputy provincial council chairman Sheik Ahmed al-Sulayti said he was alerted by police late Saturday about the rising death toll in Basra, 340 miles southeast of Baghdad.
Al-Sulayti said at least 20 were killed by the blasts that came within minutes of each other at central Basra's al-Ashaar market. He said an estimated 100 were injured.
Television footage showed bloodied bodies being loaded into ambulances amid hysterical bystanders, some of whom blamed Iraq's stalled government for the bloodshed.
"Why do they not agree, while the victims are falling down?" shouted one unidentified man. "The politicians are after posts and chairs. Reach an agreement, you traitors."
Five months after parliamentary elections that failed to produce a clear winner, Iraq's leaders have yet to form a new government — sparking angst and anger across the country. In Basra, where power outages have stymied air conditioning units in the searing summer temperatures, residents have held demonstrations to blame politicians for the lack of public services.
In the most dramatic of the attacks Saturday on Iraqi security troops, gunmen killed five policemen in an overnight shoot-out that lasted until dawn at a suspected bomb workshop in western Baghdad, security officials said.
Tipped off by a carjacking, police trailed the suspects to a house in the mostly Sunni neighborhood of Saidiya, where they came under fire from an unknown number of gunmen.
The shooting lasted until daybreak, when the gunmen slipped away through a rear entrance, according to two Baghdad police officers and an Interior Ministry official. Two of the attackers were nabbed later Saturday while hiding in an orchard in a suburb north of Baghdad, the officials said.