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Iraq Investigating Controversial Bomb Detectors


Iraqi police search civilians at a checkpoint in Ba'qubah. Security forces are still using the questionable bomb detector.

Iraqi police search civilians at a checkpoint in Ba'qubah. Security forces are still using the questionable bomb detector.

BAGHDAD -- Iraq has created two investigative teams to look into reports that a controversial bomb-detection device used by Iraqi security forces is ineffective, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

Ammar Tuma, a member of the parliament's Security and Defense Committee, told RFI on January 29 that one team has been set up by the Iraqi cabinet and the other by the Interior Ministry.

He said both groups will focus on whether there was foul play by the Iraqis who signed the deal with the British-based firm ATSC that manufactures the devices or if Iraqi officials made mistakes when testing the device's ability to detect explosives.

Tuma added that "either way those involved should be brought to account because people's lives are at stake."

He said another allegation being investigated is that the devices were "reportedly outrageously overpriced and Iraq paid about 10 to 20 times the market price" for them. Iraq reportedly spent $85 million on the devices, known as the ADE651.

The British government banned export of the bomb detectors to Iraq and Afghanistan on January 25 after a BBC investigative report challenged the technology used in the device and quoted experts saying it is not actually able to detect explosives.

Tuma added that his committee has recommended that the government should sue ATSC for damages to the victims of bomb attacks or their relatives if the investigations show that the devices did not work and contributed to the loss of life.

In the meantime, Iraqi security personnel manning checkpoints are still using the device throughout Baghdad.

Iraqi security forces spokesman Tahsin al-Sheikhly told RFI that the ADE651 cannot simply be discarded "before the results of the investigation are known, which should be within the next two or three days."

Al-Sheikhly admitted that "people's critical remarks and now the scandal triggered by reports questioning the effectiveness of the bomb detector have forced a review of security plans."
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