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Iraq finally bans fake bomb detectors

AP/Baghdad
Filed on July 26, 2016
 An Iraqi policeman uses a hand-held device that is supposed to detect bombs at a checkpoint in Basra.

An Iraqi policeman uses a hand-held device that is supposed to detect bombs at a checkpoint in Basra.
(AFP)

In this Thursday, July 14, 2016 picture, an Iraqi policeman uses a hand-held device that is supposed to detect bombs at a checkpoint in Basra, 340 miles (550 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad, Iraq. For nearly a decade, when you drove through one of Baghdad's seemingly endless checkpoints, a soldier would point a hand-held, gun-shaped device at your vehicle, intently watching if the antenna atop the device moved. If it pointed at your vehicle, the theory was, it had found a possible bomb. The wands were a fake, but it wasn't till a massive bombing this month that the government halted their use. (AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani)
(Nabil al-Jurani STF)

The wands were completely bogus. It had been proven years ago, even before 2013 when two British men were convicted in separate trials on fraud charges for selling the detectors.


For nearly a decade, anyone driving through one of Baghdad's many checkpoints was subjected to a search by a soldier pointing a security wand at their vehicle and watching the device intently to see if its antenna moved. If it pointed at the car, it had supposedly detected a possible bomb.

The wands were completely bogus. It had been proven years ago, even before 2013 when two British men were convicted in separate trials on fraud charges for selling the detectors. The devices, sold under various names for thousands of dollars each, apparently were based on a product that sold for about $20 and claimed to find golf balls.

Yet the Iraqi government continued to use the devices, spending nearly $60 million on them despite warnings by US military commanders and the wands' proven failure to stop near-daily bombings in Baghdad.

It took a massive suicide bombing that killed almost 300 people in Baghdad on July 3 - the deadliest single attack in the capital in 13 years of war - for Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi to finally ban their use.

The reason it took so long is likely the widespread corruption in the government. Iraqis mocked the device from the start, joking that too much aftershave could set off the antenna.

Now there are accusations that plans to start using newly imported explosives-detecting scanners were intentionally held up as part of the political wrangling over which faction - the military or the police - will control security in Baghdad.

Since the wands were banned, soldiers at Baghdad checkpoints largely wave motorists through, occasionally asking for vehicle registrations and driver's licenses and taking a quick look inside. Plainclothes intelligence agents scrutinize drivers and passengers. Police dogs have been used at some checkpoints, but that has proven to be time-consuming and contributing to traffic congestion.

In some places, the wands are still being used - at some checkpoints in Baghdad and in the southern port city of Basra. 

Decision taken after July 3 massive blast

> Cops used 'wands' at security checkpoints to stop motorists for detecting possible bombs.
> The devices turned out to be completely bogus.
> The 'detectors' were based on a product that sold for about $20 and claimed to find golf balls.
> The government continued to use the devices, spending nearly $60 million on them .
> The practice was carried on despite warnings by US military commanders and the wands' proven failure to stop near-daily bombings in Baghdad.

 





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