BAGHDAD: Attacks north of Baghdad, including a third suicide blast in as many days, killed at least eight people on 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 certain areas of the country call for the resignation of the 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.
It was the eighth suicide bombing in a month in Iraq, where insurgents are seeking to inflame tensions between Shiite, Sunni and ethnic Kurdish factions a year after US troops pulled out of the country.
“There were patches of blood, pieces of clothing and shoes scattered around the place,” said policeman Furat Fleh, whose patrol was near the checkpoint at the time of the blast.
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.
No organisation has claimed responsibility for the deadly string of attacks, but Sunni rebels 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. Separately, a French reporter held for two weeks for taking unauthorised photos in Baghdad appeared before an Iraqi judge for the first time on Tuesday, looking dishevelled but in good health, an AFP journalist said.
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 said 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, said 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.
Dendoune’s lawyer Naama Al Rubaye, however, argued that Dendoune was simply “exercising his journalistic duties. “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.