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Iraq PM suspends electricity minister amid protests

BAGHDAD (AFP): Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi on Sunday suspended his electricity minister over a power crisis and poor services, following weeks of protests against chronic power outages.

In a statement, his office said the suspension of Qassem al-Fahdawi will last until an investigation is concluded.

A former governor of the western Anbar province, al-Fahdawi, a Sunni, was appointed as electricity minister in 2014.

Several Iraqi cities have been shaken by demonstrations in recent weeks over poor public services, high unemployment and chronic power shortages.

The protests first erupted in the southern city of Basra and spread to several other cities in southern and central Iraq, including capital Baghdad, amid calls for sacking the electricity minister over the crisis.

At least 14 protesters have been killed and hundreds injured since the protests began earlier this month.

Iraq needs more than 23,000 megawatts of electricity per hour to ensure a nonstop supply of electricity to homes and public buildings. The country, however, currently produces about 15,900 MW of electricity.

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