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Baghdad (AFP) Feb 5, 2013
Attacks north of Baghdad, including a third suicide blast in as many days, killed at least eight people Tuesday, officials said, amid a spike in violence that has left almost 70 people dead in all.
The latest bloodshed, in which over 150 people have been wounded, has raised tensions as Iraq grapples with a political crisis and demonstrators in mostly Sunni areas of the country call for the resignation of the Shiite premier.
In Tuesday's deadliest attack, six people, including three soldiers, were killed in a suicide car bombing in the town of Taji, just north of the capital, security and medical officials said.
Fourteen others were wounded in the explosion, which targeted a joint army-police patrol near a prison.
Also on Tuesday, shootings and bombings in the restive cities of Baquba and Mosul left two people dead.
The latest attacks took the overall toll from three days of violence in Baghdad and north of the capital to at least 68 dead and 152 wounded, according to an AFP tally.
On Monday, a suicide bomber blew himself up amid a group of anti-Qaeda militiamen collecting their salaries in Taji, killing 23 people and wounding dozens more.
The previously day, another suicide car bomb followed by an assault carried out by grenade-throwing gunmen on a police headquarters in north Iraq killed 30 people.
No organisation has claimed responsibility for the deadly string of attacks, but Sunni militants including Al-Qaeda's front group often target security forces and government targets in a bid to destabilise the country and push it back to the sectarian war that blighted Iraq from 2005 to 2008.
The latest violence comes amid a political crisis pitting Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki against his government partners as weeks of demonstrations have raged in Iraq's north and west calling for the premier's ouster.
Iraq holds first hearing of detained French reporter
Nadir Dendoune, who also holds Australian and Algerian nationality, was arrested last month in the south of the capital for allegedly taking photos of security installations without a permit, and a judge is set to decide soon whether he should be released or charged with an offence.
Dressed in a jacket and jeans, the journalist appeared handcuffed at the Central Criminal Court of Iraq in Baghdad's heavily-fortified Green Zone, unshaved and visibly thin.
"Trying to keep in good spirits is not so simple," Dendoune told AFP briefly, speaking in French. "But I am being treated well at the moment."
In a 30-minute hearing which took place with French embassy officials in attendance, the reporter "was coherent, but quite weak", according to a witness who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The judge handling the case, who cannot be named under Iraqi law, told AFP he would "carefully consider (Dendoune's) testimony."
"We will keep him in custody until the investigation is complete," he said, but declined to say how long Dendoune would be held.
A judicial source said when Dendoune was arrested on January 23, he was carrying a camera with which he took photographs of offices of Iraq's intelligence services, police and army.
Journalists in Baghdad are required to seek prior approval from the capital's security command centre in order to take photographs at checkpoints and of members of the security forces.
Dendoune's lawyer Naama al-Rubaye, however, argued that Dendoune was simply "exercising his journalistic duties. He had no intention of breaking the law."
"We have asked for his release," he added.
The reporter was visiting Iraq to compile a series of stories on the upcoming 10th anniversary of the US-led invasion of the country for French monthly magazine Le Monde Diplomatique.
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