South Asia

Afghan bank robbers behead poisoned guards

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Six private security guards have been beheaded during a bank robbery in a usually safe part of northern Afghanistan, police said.

The gang raided a branch of the Kabul Bank in Mazar-e-Sharif, and escaped with nearly $300,000 (£190,000).

Investigators say the robbers struck on Monday night, firing no guns, as the bank was near a police checkpoint.

No militant involvement is suspected, Abdul Rauf Taj, deputy police chief of Mazar-e-Sharif, told the BBC.

"This is a criminal matter," he said.

Officials suspect that an insider was involved in the robbery as the guards' kebabs had been poisoned beforehand.

A senior security officer told the BBC: "It has the hallmark of an inside job. How do you poison the food of guards without someone inside?''

But Mohammad Afzal Karim, head of Kabul Bank in Mazar-e-Sharif, rejected any suggestion a member of staff could have helped the robbers.

Mazar-e-Sharif is the regional capital of Balkh province, which is regarded as one of Afghanistan's most peaceful areas.

The BBC's Bilal Sarwary in Kabul says Balkh's governor, former warlord Attah Mohammad Noar, has been praised for bringing stability to the province.

But this rare and violent robbery will undermine its peaceful reputation, our correspondent adds.