Insurgents kill 5 government employees, including 2 policemen, in attacks around in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) — A series of attacks and roadside bomb explosions killed five Iraqi government employees on Wednesday as insurgents maintain a steady campaign of attacks against the country's institutions and security forces just two weeks before the formal end of the U.S. combat role in Iraq.

Suspected Sunni militants have frequently targeted Iraq's policemen and soldiers looking to expose the inability of the Shiite-dominated government to protect the country. The looming departure of the U.S. military has turned Iraqi forces and government institutions into attractive targets for insurgents, exploiting security gaps and the political vacuum five months after an inconclusive election.

A bomb planted near a courthouse in Saddam Hussein's hometown killed two security guards, Iraqi police and hospital officials said.

Security officials at the civil court in Tikrit, 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Baghdad, discovered a pair of bombs near the main entrance to the building as people were arriving for work in the morning.

Authorities evacuated the courthouse, but one of the bombs went off killing the two guards and wounding three civilians, police and hospital officials said.

It was not immediately clear whether the first bomb was timed to detonate or whether it was mishandled. Police said they defused the second bomb.

Also Wednesday, police said gunmen in western Baghdad killed an employee of the Ministry of Housing and Reconstruction as he was driving to work.

On the other side of the city, an official with Iraq's Oil Ministry, his two body guards and a bystander were injured when a bomb exploded in the road during their morning commute, police said.

Ali al-Moussawi, the head of a committee in charge of oil products' distribution in Baghdad, sustained light injuries in the blast in the capital's Zayouna neighborhood, a ministry employee said.

In Ramadi, 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad, two policemen were killed when a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden car at a checkpoint on Wednesday afternoon, police in Anbar province's capital said.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

The violence comes a day after a suicide bomber killed 61 army recruits in central Baghdad in the deadliest attack in the capital in months. The bombing, which officials have blamed on al-Qaida, was an embarrassment for Iraq's military as it tries to reassure the nation it can fill the gap left by America's departing military.

At the end of this month, U.S. troops will number just 50,000 and will be involved only in limited operations. All U.S. soldiers are expected to leave Iraq by 2012.

The March 7 parliamentary election that produced no clear winner has added to the uncertainty in Iraq, leaving the country without a new government for more than five months as competing political parties bicker over how to share power.

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