Thieves nab $3.4 million in Iraq robbery

BAGHDAD — Thieves armed with guns fixed with silencers stormed a currency exchange company on Saturday in a northern Iraqi city, killing five people, and detonated a bomb to fend off pursuing police, Iraqi officials said.

The assailants managed to make off with 4 billion Iraqi dinars — which is about $3.4 million — from the exchange company, according to the officials.

After fleeing with the money, they left a car bomb outside the building, which exploded on the police patrols racing to the scene. Seven police and passers-by were injured when it exploded.

Bomb attacks and sectarian violence have dropped in Iraq but criminal activity has been on the rise, including a spate of brash daylight robberies of banks, jewelers and financial institutions across the country.

Many of the heists have been blamed on insurgents, who are said to be short on cash and seeking ways to fund their operations, or former insurgents who've turned to crime instead.

In Saturday's attack, a group of five gunmen blasted into the currency exchange office in the northern city of Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, a police officer in Baqouba said. Five employees in the exchange company were killed, he said.

Security forces blocked the area and began searching for the gunmen, but so far no arrests have been made, the police officer said.

An official at the Diyala health directorate confirmed the casualties.

On Saturday morning, nine people were wounded including four policemen when a bomb stuck to a civilian car exploded near a checkpoint in Baghdad's southern Dora area, police and health officials said.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to speak to the media.