Iraqi police thwarted an armed robbery targeting a branch of the state-owned al-Rafidain bank in al-Resala neighbourhood in southern Baghdad on Thursday (September 30th).
Ten gunmen attacked the bank at 11:30 a.m., first detonating a bomb at the entrance and then attacking the policemen in charge of guarding the bank with machinegun fire in an attempt to control the building, said Baghdad Operations Command spokesperson Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta.
"A clash took place between the attackers and the security forces that were in charge of protecting the bank, and one terrorist was killed," Atta said. "However, the security forces managed to thwart the attack and to protect citizens' and state money from theft."
Atta said the policemen arrested four of the attackers, while the rest fled the scene. The officer in charge of the bank's protection force and one policeman were killed in the clash. Nine civilians who were nearby at the time of the attack were wounded.
"The policemen were surprised when the terrorists attacked the bank at a time citizens were present nearby," Lt. Col. Ali Hashim of Baghdad police said. "However, the quick response by the policemen and their desire to protect the assets of the state and citizens thwarted the attack."
"The attempted robbery was planned very carefully and accurately," Hashim added. "We are certain that the terrorists tried to get control of the bank money and steal it to finance their terrorist operations and other illegal activities."
Hashim said security forces identified the vehicle the attackers used, expressing hope that investigations would lead to the arrest of the fugitives.
Col. Mushtaq Talib, official spokesperson for Baghdad Police Command, said the ability of the policemen to thwart the attack "is proof of the preparedness of the Iraqi forces and their dedication to their work."
According to Talib, only five policemen were in charge of protecting the bank.
"The police force could have surrendered to the big number of attackers and protect themselves," Talib said. "However, they refused to give in to the terrorists' threats and preferred to defend the assets of the state and citizens. This is a living example of how the Iraqi police must be everywhere."
Police arrest two suspects in Anbar
Also on Thursday, Anbar Police Command arrested the suspected "mastermind" of the suicide attack that targeted a popular restaurant in Fallujah on September 19th and his assistant. The attack killed and wounded more than 15 people.
"The intelligence bureau and anti-terrorism unit arrested terrorist Alaa Hussain al-Azzawi and his aide in a security operation carried out in the area of Husayba al-Sharqiya, west of Fallujah, Thursday at dawn," said Anbar Police Chief Maj. Gen. Bahaa al-Karkhi.
The two suspects were arrested at a building in a remote area with 340 sticks of TNT, 80 detonators, 100 mortar shells, and a number of explosives vests in their possession.
"The defendants confessed in the initial investigation that they were behind the terrorist operation," al-Karkhi said. "They also turned in a number of members in their terrorist cell who are now being pursued by specialised security teams."