BAGHDAD – Five people were killed Sunday in a daylight attack at a popular money exchange office, a reflection of the increasing crime in Iraq even as violence is on the decline.
The gunmen broke into the al-Nibal money exchange office in downtown Baghdad shortly before noon, killing three employees and two customers, said two Iraqi police officials.
They said 12 others, including eight employees, were wounded in the attack in Baghdad's commercial Karradah district.
A witness described a chaotic scene inside the office.
Mohammed Abbas, the owner of a next-door stationery store, said he saw three vehicles pull up to the exchange office, including one that blocked the street. He said five gunmen jumped out of the vehicles.
They began firing as soon as they walked into the office, he said.
Abbas said the gunmen appeared to try to open a safe but fled when they heard police sirens.
Police sealed off the area surrounding the money exchange office and are searching for the gunmen, the officials said. They said it was not known whether the gunmen made off with any money.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information to the media.
Though extremist attacks have declined dramatically in Iraq over the past two years, the number of armed robberies targeting jewelry stores, currency exchanges and pawn shops appears to be increasing.
In April, gunmen using silencer-fitted weapons killed at least seven people during a daylight heist of jewelry stores in Baghdad. In the same month, gunmen used similar tactics during the robbery of a money exchange office in the southern city of Basra.
Elsewhere, Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission said 78 percent of 2.5 million eligible voters cast ballots during Saturday's elections in the self-ruled Kurdish north.
Commission member Hamdiyah al-Husseini told a news conference late Saturday in the Kurdish city of Irbil that the highest voter turnout was in Dahuk, one of three Kurdish provinces making up the region. Al-Husseini says nearly 86 percent of eligible voters in Dahuk cast ballots.
She says 79 percent of voters turned out in Irbil and 74.5 percent in Sulaimaniyah.
Election results are not expected to be announced for several days.
Though the elections were violence free, there were scattered reports of problems at polling stations.
The Shams Network, an independent Kurdish electoral observer, raised concerns that the ink used to mark the thumbs of voters who had cast ballots could be easily washed off, possibly allowing someone to vote more than once.
"The electoral commission did not allow observers to use their mobile phones. Therefore observers could not send reports about violations," said Hogar Chatto, a spokesman for Shams.