BAGHDAD — Gunmen ambushed a car with five Iraqi oil refinery employees carrying the company payroll, killing them and fleeing with $300,000 in cash yesterday, Iraqi officials said.
The brazen attack near 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 north of Baghdad, police said.
Three accountants, an engineer, and a driver were killed in the afternoon attack, said an official with the main refinery in Beiji.
The attack was the latest in a rising trend 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 College 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 and attacks on gold jewelers and money changers have occurred over the past several weeks across Iraq, raising suspicions that Al Qaeda-linked insurgents could be replenishing their coffers for future attacks.
The strikes came a week before the deadline for all but 50,000 US troops to be out of Iraq — a military drawdown that has raised fears that the country’s shaky security situation will worsen.
Also yesterday, 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.