BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Gunmen swooped on a row of Baghdad goldsmiths on Tuesday, killing 14 people and making off with gold and cash in a brazen daylight robbery, an Interior Ministry source said.
Police said at least a dozen gunmen armed with pistols, bombs and Kalashnikov assault rifles attacked 11 goldsmiths and a money exchange on a bustling shopping street in the Bayaa district of southwest Baghdad.
One attacker was killed in a shootout with police when they tried to escape in civilian vehicles, said Baghdad security spokesman, Major General Qassim al-Moussawi.
He said seven goldsmiths were killed, but the Interior Ministry source said the death toll was 14.
A number of police officers from Bayaa sector were arrested and would be questioned over possible links to the attack, the media office of the Iraqi cabinet quoted Moussawi as saying.
He blamed Sunni insurgents linked to al Qaeda, saying they were in search of money to finance operations. “It’s a terrorist incident linked to the crimes conducted by al Qaeda to gain financing through armed robbery and stealing.”
He said some of the gunmen used silencers to kill the goldsmiths.
On May 10 in Baghdad, gunmen equipped with silencers killed at least seven Iraqi soldiers and policemen in attacks on six checkpoints in the capital.
The Interior Ministry source said the attackers also set bombs, a number of which police managed to defuse.
“I heard an explosion and then I saw four dead bodies on the ground close to the gold shops,” a witness said.
Violence has dropped since the sectarian killing of 2006-07 but bombings and shootings are still a regular occurrence.
Civilians fled shops and apartments near the scene of the robbery, and police sealed off the area to conduct a search. Moussawi said two gunmen were arrested. The Interior Ministry source said four police officers were wounded.
Additional reporting by Waleed Ibrahim and Aseel Kami; Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Diana Abdallah