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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 December, 2004, 08:53 GMT
Search police 'attacked by mob'
Police searching a car in north Belfast
Forensic scientists examined a car
Five officers have been injured after police searching homes in connection with a 22m bank raid in Belfast came under attack.

The officers' vehicles were battered with stones, bricks and hammers as they searched a house in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast.

Police raided a number of homes in west and north Belfast, including that of a prominent republican.

The officers took away a number of items for forensic examination.

Family hostages

Monday's bank raid is thought to have been one of the UK's biggest cash robberies.

Family members of two senior executives of the Northern Bank were held hostage for 24 hours, after gunmen threatened to kill them if the bank employees did not follow their demands.

They were released once the robbery was reported at about 2345 GMT on Monday.

The Northern bank is considering recalling all its bank notes to prevent the stolen cash being filtered into the economy.

THE 22M RAID
12m in new Northern Bank 100 and 20 notes were taken
5m of assorted used NI banknotes were taken
1.15m of new Northern Bank 100 and 50 notes were among the stolen cash
Four people were held hostage at a house in Poleglass on the outskirts of west Belfast
Two people were held in County Down
A woman was held blindfolded for more than 24 hours
45 detectives are working on the case

The unprecedented move would involve replacing around 30m of old notes to make the stolen money useless.

A bank spokesman said the recall plan was "under very, very serious consideration" but stressed that no decision has been taken.

He added: "Whatever happens, all existing notes will be honoured. Nobody will be out of pocket except the robbers."

Police have said the possible involvement of paramilitaries is a "key line of inquiry".

But the IRA has denied involvement in the robbery. On Thursday, a senior republican dismissed "any suggestion or allegation that we were involved".

In Friday's police raids officers searched a home in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast.

Christmas presents were opened and search teams took clothes, shoes, mobile phones and other items away for forensic examination.

In the Lenadoon area of west Belfast, the crowd had to be calmed down as the police moved in to search a house.

Sinn Fein assembly member Michael Ferguson said the searches were "black propaganda".

"This is an attack on republicans and an attack on the peace process," he said.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Footage of the police investigations




SEE ALSO:
Police deny 'bank robbery botch'
23 Dec 04 |  Northern Ireland
Gang in '20m' bank raid
21 Dec 04 |  Northern Ireland
The human factor in bank robberies
21 Dec 04 |  Business


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