- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 19, 2006

BAGHDAD — Iraqi authorities executed 13 men by hanging yesterday after they were convicted of murder and kidnapping, lining them up in hoods and green jumpsuits with their hands bound behind their backs.

The government executed the men after an appeals court and the presidency approved the verdict, said Busho Ibrahim, undersecretary of the Justice Ministry.

“They included terrorists and other criminals convicted of abduction and murder as well as assassination plots in several provinces,” he said.

Elsewhere in the Iraqi capital, gunmen in military uniforms robbed government accountants as they left a bank with bags of cash. It was the second major robbery in Baghdad in eight days.

Assailants in four vehicles drove up to the Zuwiyah Bank in the Karradah neighborhood and fired automatic weapons in the air, then handcuffed guards and robbed accountants of 1 billion Iraqi dinars ($709,000), police said.

On Dec. 11, gunmen in Iraqi army uniforms stole $1 million from a bank truck.

Iraq has seen many other spectacular bank robberies in recent years. Shortly before the United States began bombing Baghdad in 2003, about $900 million in U.S. currency was taken from the central bank — a sum that amounted to about a quarter of Iraq’s hard currency reserves.

Some news reports said Saddam Hussein ordered the money taken and sent his son Qusai to grab the cash in the middle of the night. The large take reportedly had to be hauled away in three tractor-trailers.

Hours after the accountants were robbed yesterday, guards at another downtown bank fired on a funeral procession, wounding a mourner. Police said the guards thought that the coffin was fake and that criminals were masquerading as mourners as part of a robbery attempt. Police intervened and found the mourners to be genuine.

Also yesterday, the U.S. military announced the death of a Marine in the insurgent stronghold of Anbar province, bringing to 61 the number of American military personnel killed this month. About 2,950 U.S. troops have been killed since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Ayham al-Samaraie, a former electricity minister who escaped from police custody inside the heavily fortified Green Zone, remained at large. Al-Samaraie, a dual U.S.-Iraqi citizen who was being held on corruption charges, walked out of a police station Sunday with the help of private guards, officials said.

The Iraqi Red Crescent said that the total number of people seized in a kidnapping at the aid group’s Baghdad office on Sunday was 42 and that 26 had been released. The agency’s Baghdad branches remained shut, but offices elsewhere in Iraq were open.

“The closure of Baghdad offices will continue until all the kidnapped people are released,” said Abdel-Hamid Salim, a Red Crescent spokesman.

The U.S. military said insurgents detonated a bomb at a medical facility flying a Red Crescent flag in western Iraq, but there were no reports of casualties.

A Red Crescent spokesman, speaking on the condition of anonymity for safety reasons, said the facility did not belong to the agency. Red Crescent flags are often posted outside medical facilities that may not have a direct link with the aid group.

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