Gunmen kill 5 Iraqi oil workers, steal payroll

Men ambush car of refinery employees and flee with $300,000 in cash

Published August 23, 2010 6:28PM (EDT)

Gunmen ambushed a car with five Iraqi oil refinery employees carrying the company payroll, killing them and fleeing with $300,000 in cash on Monday, Iraqi officials said.

The brazen attack just outside Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, hit the employees right after they had picked up the payroll for the Haditha refinery in western Iraq from the main refining headquarters in Beiji, 155 miles (250 kilometers) north of Baghdad, police said.

Hospital officials in Tikrit confirmed the death toll.

Three accountants, an engineer and a driver were killed in the afternoon attack, said an official with the main refinery in Beiji. The incident was the latest in a rising trend of criminal attacks that many believe is part of insurgent efforts to raise funds.

On Sunday, gunmen in western Baghdad held up a car with five employees of the Veterinary Collage outside a bank until they handed over the $600,000 payroll, police officials said. There were no casualties.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

A series of bank robberies, attacks on gold jewelers and money changers have occurred over the past several weeks across Iraq raising suspicions that that al-Qaida-linked insurgents could be replenishing their coffers for future attacks.

While violence has subsided significantly in Iraq since 2008, attacks still occur on daily basis across the country as the U.S. military ends its combat mission next week.

Four people were killed in separate attacks around Baghdad and 21 people were wounded, police officials said Monday.

The strikes came a week before the deadline for all but 50,000 U.S. troops to be out of Iraq -- a military drawdown that has raised fears the country's already shaky security situation will worsen.

In one of the bombings, Baghdad police said unknown attackers in a speeding car threw a grenade in the eastern neighborhood of New Baghdad around 6:30 a.m. Monday.

The blast killed one policeman, a security official said. A medic at Baghdad's Ibn al-Nafees hospital confirmed the casualties.

Also on Monday, a bomb attached to a civilian car of an Iraqi army officer exploded in Baghdad's northern neighborhood of Kazimiyah, killing the officer and seriously wounding his brother who was in the car with him.

Police and hospital officials said the victim, Ali Jawad, was an officer with Iraq's military intelligence.

All officials gave details of the attacks on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

By Barbara Surk

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