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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 April, 2003, 23:46 GMT 00:46 UK
UK troops foil Iraq bank robbery
Iraqi bank notes
Robbers have repeatedly raided Iraqi banks
British soldiers in the southern Iraqi city of Basra have foiled an attempt to steal millions in American dollars and gold bullion from the city's central bank.

They arrested 59 men who were trying to get away with the haul after blowing open a vault.

It was the third time robbers had targeted the city's national bank in the past week.

Lieutenant William Horley of the Irish Guards said: "They had bin bags full of notes, pressed and bound up in cellophane."

Broad daylight

In broad daylight the robbers managed to break through the metre-thick walls of the bank.

Using explosives they then blew open one of its huge vaults.

The sound of the blasts alerted British troops in a nearby base, Lieutenant Horley said.

When British troops arrived they found no fewer than 59 men trying to haul away huge pile of Iraqi dinars, as well as the US dollars and gold bullion.

Lieutenant Horley said pools of blood had been found in the basement, suggesting that rival groups of robbers had opened fire on one another.

No injured people or bodies were found though.

Government warehouse

British tanks have been placed outside the bank in a bid to prevent further looting.

It was the latest of a string of bank robberies in the city.

And it is the third time in a week that Basra's central bank has been hit.

Looting in the city is also a continuing problem.

On the outskirts of Basra gangs of looters could be seen on Saturday, hauling away truckloads of construction materials from a government warehouse.

Despite British claims that the security situation in Basra is improving, the wave of crime that followed the fall of the city is far from over.

All aboard the Basra express
19 Apr 03  |  Middle East

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