Iraq still uses phony bomb detectors

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A policeman in Baghdad knows the bomb detector he uses is fake, and will do virtually nothing to save anyone’s life, but he has his orders.

“If I were given a mop and told that it detects bombs in cars, I would still do it without any hesitation,” he told AFP, asking not to be identified.

“The device is a 100 percent failure and we know that, but it is imposed on us; we cannot disobey direct orders,” he added.

James McCormick, a British businessman, made an estimated $ 240 million selling the “bomb detectors,” based on a novelty golf ball finder, to Iraq and other countries.

He was sentenced on Thursday to 10 years in jail for fraud.

But despite the sentencing and overwhelming evidence that the devices are worthless, the Iraqi government has not taken them out of circulation.

Relying on bomb detectors that do not work is an especially grave issue in Iraq, where violence is a major problem and bombings by militants are common.

The latest fighting in northern Iraq killed nine police on Friday, while a car bomb targeting worshipers near a Sunni mosque north of Baghdad left five dead, security and medical officials said.

The fighting between police and armed men in west Mosul, including mortar rounds fired at checkpoints, killed nine police and wounded seven, police and a doctor said.

Four gunmen were also killed in the clashes.

In Rashidiyah, north of Baghdad, the car bomb exploded as worshippers left Friday prayers at Al Ghufran mosque, killing at least five people and wounding 30, an interior ministry official and a medical source said.

And in Al Amil in south Baghdad, a magnetic “sticky bomb” blast wounded a police captain, while a roadside explosion wounded three more police in Taji, north of the capital, the ministry official and medical sources said.

Most Iraqis familiar with the fake devices, made of black plastic with a pistol-style grip and a small silver antenna, do not have any regard for them.

Army Captain Saleh Mohammed said security forces do not trust the devices.

“The soldier holding the device is himself not confident in it, but it is imposed on him,” Mohammed said.

“We already told the officials that the device is not working properly but they wanted to show the people that they did something,” he said.

Mohammed also had sharp words for Britain for allowing the devices to be exported in the first place.

“The British government must be held responsible for all the explosions that happened,” Mohammed said.

It “is an advanced country and has quality control and good customer service standards,” he said, asking how officials there could have not known the “detectors” were being marketed.

“Don’t they know that these devices do not work as they examined them? Didn’t they take taxes for exporting them?” British firm Advanced Tactical Security & Communications Ltd.

(ATSC) made a number of fantastical claims about the devices.

It said they could pick up substances ranging from explosives to ivory at up to 1,000 meters on the ground or 3,000 meters from the air, using credit card-sized “sensor cards.”

The reality, however, proved rather different, with McCormick found guilty of three counts of fraud last week.