BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Security forces foiled an attempt to rob a state-run Baghdad bank on Thursday after gunmen detonated bombs to distract guards, but two police officers were killed in a shootout with the attackers, security sources said.
Authorities said they captured four of at least ten gunmen who attacked the Rafidain bank in the Bayaa district of southwestern Baghdad.
Some of the insurgent groups that took up arms after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein has turned to crime to finance operations, attacking banks, gold markets and jewelry shops. But authorities said they did not yet know whether the bank suspects were insurgents or a criminal gang.
The attackers planted and set off a series of roadside bombs near the bank to distract police officers guarding the building, an Interior Ministry source said.
“They (police) closed the gates of the bank when they smelled trouble and started skirmishing with them,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous.
The Baghdad security spokesman’s office said two policemen were killed and nine civilians were wounded.
Soldiers and police locked down the area, closing main roads as they searched for the rest of the would-be robbers.
Overall violence in Iraq has fallen sharply since the height of sectarian bloodshed in 2006/07.
Politicians and military officials have said militants are attempting to take advantage of a power vacuum since a March election that produced no clear winner. Political factions have been negotiating for a new government without success.
In June, suicide bombers detonated cars loaded with explosives outside the Trade Bank of Iraq, killing 26 people. A week earlier, gunmen and suicide bombers laid siege to Iraq’s central bank in Baghdad, killing 18.
Reporting and writing by Khalid al-Ansary; editing by Ralph Boulton