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Thieves attack bank trucks south of Baghdad

Groups claiming to speak for 3 million Iraqis pull out of elections

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Violence escalates in the run-up to the January 30 elections.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Unknown assailants attacked two bank vehicles -- one filled with coins, the other carrying security guards -- as the convoy headed to Baghdad's central bank earlier this week, Iraqi police officials said Wednesday.

One of the vehicles, a pickup truck, was found with the burned bodies of three security contractors inside, the officials said. Three passengers in the second vehicle were wounded, officials said.

Three Ministry of Finance employees told Iraqi police they fled the scene after they came under fire.

Iraqi police arrested two people after the incident.

The attack occurred Tuesday night south of Salman Pak, more than 12 miles (20 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad. The trucks were en route from Basra, in southern Iraq.

The convoy carried coins with denominations ranging from 25 Iraqi dinars to 100 Iraqi dinars (about 2 cents to about 7 cents in U.S. currency).

The attackers broke the lock on the truck and stole all the coins inside, the employees told police. Both trucks were set on fire.

Iraqi police cordoned off the area and found a sealed safe containing 100 Iraqi dinar coins about 200 meters (660 feet) from the burned vehicles.

After searching the area, authorities said they detained two suspects, one of whom admitted to indirectly aiding those responsible.

Meanwhile, two Iraqi national guard patrolmen were killed and another two were wounded in southeast Mosul when insurgents detonated a car bomb, the U.S. military said. The injured were taken to a hospital. No further information was available.

In Baquba, one Iraqi police officer was killed and four were wounded when their patrol was hit by a roadside bomb, a U.S. military spokesman said. The attack happened about 6:30 p.m. (10:30 a.m. ET). The injured were taken to a nearby base for treatment.

Officials have said they expect an increase in violence as Iraq's January 30 election date approaches.

A group of 44 organizations and parties throughout Iraq and claiming 3 million supporters nationwide said Wednesday that it will withdraw from the elections, citing fairness and safety concerns.

The Patriotic Front for Iraqi Tribes said it reserves the right to participate if the government agrees to postpone the vote. It also said its decision had nothing to do with the arrest of the group's secretary-general by U.S. forces December 31 in Mosul.

On Tuesday, interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said fear of violence will keep Iraqis in some parts of the country from voting in the elections. (Full story)

Other developments

  • The United States is taking steps to determine how it received faulty intelligence regarding deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and his alleged weapons of mass destruction program, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Wednesday. His comments followed reports that the search for WMDs has ended without any such weapons being found. (Full story)
  • Acting on tips from Baghdad residents, U.S. troops detained six people Wednesday suspected of involvement in the assassination of the governor of Baghdad province last week, said Maj. Web Wright, spokesman for the 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team. The six are believed to be involved in the assassination of Ali Al-Haidri, who was among the senior members of Iraq's interim government. Al-Haidri and one of his bodyguards were killed January 4 in an ambush in the Iraqi capital.
  • CNN's Barbara Starr and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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