In an astonishing heist, guards at a bank here made off with more than a quarter-billion dollars on Wednesday, according to an official at the Interior Ministry.
The robbery, of $282 million from the Dar Es Salaam bank, a private financial institution, raised more questions than it answered, and officials were tight-lipped about the crime. The local police said two guards engineered the robbery, but an official at the Interior Ministry said three guards were involved.
Both confirmed that the stolen money was in American dollars, not Iraqi dinars. It was unclear why the bank had that much money on hand in dollars, or how the robbers managed to move such a large amount without being detected.
Several officials speculated that the robbers had connections to the militias, because it would be difficult for them to move without being searched through many checkpoints in Baghdad.
Otherwise on Wednesday, there was only scattered violence in the city, although 18 bodies were found by the police in different neighborhoods, signaling that sectarian killing had not ebbed.
In a village just north of Falluja, however, extremists in two vehicles, possibly in an act of revenge, forced the residents of a house inside, locked the doors and blew up the building. Eleven people died, according to a report by United States marines who operate in the area. The house is owned by a member of the local provincial security forces, which are fighting Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a homegrown Sunni Arab insurgent group that includes some foreigners.
In Mosul, an American helicopter returned fire after being shot at, but hit civilians, according to Brig. Gen. Abd al-Kareem Khalaf Juboori of the Mosul police. Two people were killed and 14 wounded, including two children.
The killing continued in Diyala Province, where American operations are under way to try to reduce the influence of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Three bodies were found with signs of torture near the town of Khalis; an army checkpoint was attacked with mortars; a local police station was attacked; and a roadside bomb killed an Iraqi Army soldier and wounded four others in Khan Beni Sa’ad, about 50 miles from Baghdad.
Iraqi solders at a checkpoint near the Syrian border seized a truck carrying 200 suicide vests. While the vests had not yet been loaded with explosives, a car filled with explosives was found nearby. The police suspect that the two were traveling together, said Maj. Gen. Abdul Kareem Khalaf, an official at the checkpoint.
The government announced several measures to help repair the damage from the enormous truck bomb earlier this week in Amirli in northern Diyala Province. Families who lost one or more relatives will receive a payout of $2,400, and families that had a relative wounded will be awarded $800, said Abbas al-Bayati, a member of Parliament designated by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to oversee the area’s reconstruction. Mr. Maliki also allocated $10 million to rebuild the remote village.
The Ministry of Trade announced it had begun a coordinated effort with the Defense and Interior Ministries to ship food to areas that insurgents had cut off, and was making Amirli a special priority, along with Rutba in western Iraq and Tal Afar in the north near Mosul.
The German Foreign Ministry announced the release of Hannelore Krause, who had been held hostage for 155 days by Iraqi insurgents calling themselves the Arrows of Righteousness. But her son, who is 20, was still being held, and in an interview on the Arabiya satellite television network she asked the German government to comply with the kidnappers’ demands that her country withdraw their troops from Afghanistan.
“If they do not withdraw, they will slaughter my son,” she said.
Meanwhile, the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants said Wednesday that the number of refugees worldwide increased by almost two million in 2006, pushing the total to nearly 14 million, the highest level since 2001, The Associated Press reported. Iraqis accounted for more than a third of the increase.
The committee, a nongovernmental group in Washington, said that of the 790,000 people who left Iraq last year, 449,000 went to Syria and 250,000 to Jordan. About 80,000 went to Egypt and 202 to the United States.
Cleric Flees After Death Threats
An Anglican vicar who may have received a cryptic warning about the recent failed car bombings in London and Glasgow has fled Iraq after threats against his life, an associate said Wednesday.
The vicar, Canon Andrew White, a Briton who ran Iraq’s only Anglican church, left Tuesday and returned to Britain, the associate said on condition of anonymity, saying the British Foreign Office had asked that it be the only source of information on the case.
The associate refused to elaborate on the threats. But the BBC Web site said pamphlets dropped in Shiite areas of Baghdad said Canon White was “no more than a spy.”
Canon White had been working to secure the release of five British hostages who were seized at the Iraqi Finance Ministry on May 29 by gunmen wearing police uniforms.
On July 4, he told The Associated Press that he had met a man in Amman, Jordan, in April who was identified by religious leaders as a leader of Al Qaeda. The man told him, “Those who cure you will kill you.”
Canon White said in retrospect that it might have been a warning of the plot to blow up car bombs in London and Glasgow. All the suspects worked in the medical professions.
Canon White had been visiting Iraq regularly since 1998 and remained here after the American invasion in 2003, holding services inside the Green Zone.
Source: The New York Times