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Significant armed robbery affecting salary payments for hospital employees in Sulaymaniyah

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At around noon on 12 March, four armed men wearing masks and military uniforms, travelling in a Nissan Patrol SUV with tinted windows, shot at a hospital van forcing the vehicle to stop on Ibrahim Pasha Street of Sulaymaniyah City. The gunmen stole salary payments intended for Shar Hospital employees later confirmed to total 1.628 billion IQD (nearly $1.35 million USD). The driver and two bank employees were left at the scene. Anecdotal reports suggest the criminals staged in the area half an hour before the robbery. The van was dumped near a cemetery southeast of the city along Malik Mahmoud Ring Road after the criminals transferred the cash to a Nissan Patrol and a Nissan Cedric.

On the early morning hours of 13 March, according to Sulaymaniyah Asayish Director Sulaimani Hassan Nuri, security forces recovered the money after locating the gang’s vehicles during an operation in Qularaisi neighborhood. Sulaymaniyah Asayish and Sulaymaniyah Police commanders stated that seven suspects were arrested in and around Sulaymaniyah following the incident, with some arrested while attempting to flee the city. The suspected group leader was arrested on the morning of 13 March, and resided near the local bank that dispersed the salary payments.

Each of the individuals allegedly confessed to their involvement according to the Asayish director. The robbery was reportedly planned 10 days beforehand. Additional suspects detained for questioning included one bank employee and four hospital employees. Employees tipping off criminal groups are commonly seen during such instances, though it is unclear if any of these individuals will be formally charged. KRG Minister of Finance Rebaz Hamlan confirmed the recovery of the funds, and called on KRG departments to coordinate with security forces when transporting large sums of money in the future.

Although infrequent, lucrative thefts affecting the transportation of government employee salaries forms an established practice for organized crime groups on a national basis. The 12 March incident stands out as the first instance along these lines in Sulaymaniyah Province in the recent past. Less sophisticated thefts affecting individuals while in transit, including carjackings, are commonly reported.

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