World News

Security guards drugged in $5 mln Iraq bank robbery

NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) - Robbers in Iraq stole 6.5 billion Iraqi dinars ($5.5 million) from a state-owned bank on Friday, assisted by a security guard who spiked his colleagues’ tea, police officials said.

“According to the information available to the security forces, one of the guards drugged his colleagues by putting a drug in their tea,” Najaf province security committee head Louai al-Yasiri told Reuters.

After the drinks were spiked, armed men entered the Rafidain bank in the town of al-Mishkab, Najaf province, shortly after midnight and made off with the loot, said Yasiri.

The drugged security guards have since recovered and no other casualties were reported.

The bank robbery followed a gold heist on Tuesday in Baghdad, when gunmen shot dead 14 people and stripped a row of goldsmiths of gold and cash in a bustling trade market normally heavily guarded by police.

The Iraqi government blamed the gold robbery on Sunni al Qaeda insurgents, trying to finance their operations.

Security officials say there are strong links between organised crime and the diminished but adapting insurgency.

Despite sectarian violence at a low ebb not seen since late 2003, shootings and bombings by militants and criminal gangs remain common.

Yasiri said police had evidence suggesting who might have been behind the bank robbery and the investigation was ongoing.

Reporting by Khalid Farhan in Najaf, writing by Muhanad Mohammed; Editing by Michael Taylor