The gang that carried out a series of commando-style bank robberies in the Washington area two years ago used fully automatic assault rifles that were smuggled from the battlefields of Iraq by a soldier in the U.S. Army Reserve, according to investigators. An investigation by the FBI and police is centering on several AK-47s the notorious robbers used in some of their heists, reports the Washington Post. In Iraq, such weapons are plentiful and cheap. For the robbery gang, they were key to their strategy: using overwhelming firepower and body armor to frighten and intimidate bank employees and customers–and ward off police.
New details about the guns have emerged from interviews with law enforcement officials and court records. The arrests and convictions of eight people in the robberies, including two who became government witnesses, led to the spin-off criminal investigation into how the rifles made their way from Iraq to Washington. No one has been arrested in the weapons case. Authorities said the weapons were part of a small cache purchased for $5,000 from a gang member’s friend, who had recently come back from serving in Iraq. The soldier was a member of a military police battalion based at Fort Meade, authorities said.