Turkmenistan Says Fireworks Blast Killed 15; Opposition Says Hundreds Dead

Posted July 10th, 2011 at 7:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Officials in Turkmenistan say an explosion at a fireworks warehouse near the capital, Ashgabat, last week killed 15 people, but the opposition and Russian media say hundreds are dead.

After days of official silence, the Turkmen government said unusually hot weather triggered the blast in the town of Abadan, killing 13 civilians and two soldiers. It says the fireworks also triggered explosions in a depot where Soviet-era ammunition was stored.

But Russian television and members of the Turkmen opposition say the explosion killed as many as 200 people. They say the blast was in the ammunitions dump.

Human rights groups have called Turkmenistan one of the world's most repressive governments.

Relations between Russia and Turkmenistan have been cool, but Russia is seeking to secure natural gas deals with the resource-rich central Asian state.