8 Killed, 9 Wounded in Robberies at 3 Baghdad Jewelry Stores

By Nada Bakri
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, October 15, 2009

BAGHDAD, Oct. 14 -- Armed men killed at least eight people and wounded nine Wednesday during the robbery of three jewelry stores in Baghdad, a brazen, daylight crime that residents blamed on security forces.

Sectarian violence has fallen sharply in the past year, in Baghdad and other areas across Iraq, but robberies and killings remain common. Many say that the country's security forces, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, often play at least a tacit role in the incidents.

In Wednesday's robberies, witnesses said two dark blue minibuses carrying 12 to 15 men arrived in a Shiite neighborhood at 2 p.m. and parked a block away from the market where the jewelry stores are located. The men walked the rest of the way.

At the first store, they shot the owner in the head with a gun equipped with a silencer and robbed the place. They then looted two more stores, killing the owners. Along the way, they killed five other people, including a woman and her 8-month-old baby.

Before leaving, they tossed hand grenades into the market and shot at cars parked nearby to ensure they were not followed.

A checkpoint is located a few miles away, and many residents said soldiers there had allowed the assailants to pass unhindered.

"The policemen at the checkpoint know me, but they search me and search my car every time I leave and come back," said Mohamad Salman, a 35-year-old butcher whose store is near one of the jewelers. "It was an organized crime, and they were getting help from the police. They weren't even hiding their faces."

Interior Ministry officials said six soldiers and an officer were arrested for failing to protect the area.

Meanwhile, the government released late Tuesday its first official report on the death toll in Iraq from 2004 to 2008. It said 85,000 people had been killed in violence that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

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