The most feared and effective rebel group battling President Bashar al-Assad, the Islamist Nusra Front, is being eclipsed by a more radical jihadi force whose aims go far beyond overthrowing the Syrian leader. Article
Gov't bodyguard involved in Iraq robbery - office
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A bodyguard for one of Iraq's two vice presidents participated in a Baghdad bank robbery last month in which eight people were shot dead, the vice president's media office said on Thursday.
The involvement of a senior state official's security team in the robbery is a sign that Iraq's security forces are still vulnerable to penetration by criminal elements.
Police on July 30 arrested members of a gang who had opened fire on security staff before blasting open the vault with dynamite and making off with $6.84 million from a branch of Iraq's state-owned Rafidain bank in central Baghdad.
An Interior Ministry statement released late on Wednesday said Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi had informed Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that a "gang" from his special protection battalion bodyguards had committed the crime.
But Abdul-Mahdi's office said only one bodyguard was involved. The Interior Ministry was not immediately available to comment on the discrepancy.
"There's a mistake ... which suggests that all the gang members are from the vice president's special protection team. The truth is only one person out of a group of nine belong to that team," Abdul-Mahdi's statement said.
The Interior Ministry's statement said five people had been arrested but two main suspects had managed to flee "to unknown destinations outside Iraq".
It said they were being tracked down through diplomatic channels and Interpol.
Violence in Iraq is at lows not seen since late 2003, but shootings and bombings by militants and criminal gangs are commonplace.
In March, the Interior Ministry said it had sacked 62,000 employees since 2006 for reasons including abuse of power and human rights.
Security officials say there are links between organised crime in Iraq and the still-active armed insurgency against U.S. and Iraqi security forces.
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