Baghdad thieves kill 14 in jewellery shop raids

Image caption,
Medical personnel remove the body of a jeweller gunned down in Baghdad

At least 14 people have been killed in a mass raid by gunmen on jewellers' shops in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

About 10 gunmen rampaged through a busy street lined with gold shops in the Bayaa district in the south-west of the city, interior ministry officials said.

They threw grenades and then made off with gold and money after shooting some of the shop-keepers, says the BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad.

One of the robbers was killed by security forces, police said.

Four policemen were injured in the shootout.

"I heard an explosion and then I saw four dead bodies on the ground close to the gold shops," one witness told Reuters news agency.

Violence has dropped from the height of the Iraqi conflict in 2006-07, but bombings and robberies are still frequent, says our correspondent.

Tensions remain high in the wake of elections in March. No bloc has yet assembled a majority to form a government.

The Bayaa raids are the latest in a string of spectacular raids on banks and jewellery shops.

Security officials have suggested that the number of weapons used and the level of organisation indicate insurgent groups may be carrying out the robberies to raise funds.

But after a major bank raid last year, our correspondent adds, it emerged that some of the robbers were bodyguards to one of the country's vice-presidents.