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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 May, 2005, 10:38 GMT 11:38 UK
Iraq insurgent attacks kill nine
Iraqi police car riddled with bullets
Iraqi police are regularly targeted by insurgents
Insurgents in Iraq have killed at least five policemen and four civilians in attacks in the capital, Baghdad.

The policemen were killed when about 30 gunmen raided a checkpoint on a main road leading south out of Baghdad.

Later, a car bomb exploded near a US convoy in the Zafaraniya area, killing four Iraqi civilians and wounding 12.

The attacks come as the new Iraqi government led by Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari is struggling to fill seven vacant government positions.

The escalation has apparently been staged to highlight the challenge to the new government, says the BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad.

Taken aback

A sixth policeman was wounded in the attack on the checkpoint in the outskirts of Baghdad, police said.

The attackers, who jumped out of a pickup lorry which pulled up near the checkpoint, were reportedly armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

They were immediately joined by other militants who were hiding behind nearby trees.

"The policemen were taken by surprise at about 0600 (0200 GMT) at their checkpoint some 20km (12 miles) south of Baghdad by armed men who shot them and took their weapons," the official said.

Most of the victims of the other attack were Iraqi civilians who happened to be in the area of eastern Baghdad when the car laden with explosives went off.

Iraqi police said one of the American military vehicles was also hit.

It was not immediately known if there were any US casualties.

The latest spate of attacks that started on Friday has claimed at least 70 lives.

The outbreak of violence comes in the wake of the installation of the new Iraqi government on Thursday, which many hoped would mark a new start for the country and eventually put an end to the violence.

Ethnic balance

Iraq police and security forces are often the target of insurgents, but US military authorities say eight of its soldiers have been killed in the past three days.

Mr Jaafari is negotiating with Sunni leaders who he is trying to draw into the new government which is due to be sworn in on Tuesday.

Seven ministers' positions have been left open, including the defence ministry portfolio.

Sunnis represent roughly 20% of the population.

They have boycotted parliamentary elections and have only 17 deputies in the new 275-member parliament.

See pictures from the scenes of the attacks in Baghdad


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