After a devastating car bomb in central Iraq killed more than 200 people and left hundreds more injured Sunday, the country’s prime minister, Haidar al-Abadi, has announced that all security forces stop using controversial hand-held bomb detectors after fake bomb detectors sold by a British con man allowed terrorists to get through a security checkpoint and carry out a bombing that claimed over 200 lives, the Guardian is reporting. ISIS claimed responsibility for the bomb blast.
In a statement released on Monday, the prime minister said, “All security forces must take away the handheld detectors from checkpoints and the (Ministry of Interior) must reopen the investigation for corruption in the contracts for these devices and follow all entities which participated in them.”
The wand-like devices, widely used at road checkpoints, embassies, government ministries, and compounds, were sold by British alleged con man James McCormick.
— CNN (@CNN) July 4, 2016
Despite the ban, security personnel were still seen using the wands at checkpoints on Monday. A government official justified the move, saying that “sometimes it is better to pretend. To say that these don’t work says that we don’t have anything better. The people need some sort of reassurance.”
The bomb blast on Sunday morning that targeted a busy shopping district was of little comfort. Investigators examining the wreckage said the blast sparked huge fires that overwhelmed shopping malls on either side of the road.
The bomb detectors, considered ineffective, had been banned from being exported out of the U.K., but years later, the Iraqi government had continued to use the fake bomb detectors. Reports reveal that more than 4,000 people have been killed or injured in bomb blasts since 2007 because of the porous checkpoints in Iraq.
BAGHDAD BOMBING- W.Marx 1130a PKG TUE0136- Iraqis carrying coffins in Baghdad, victims of Sunday’s ISIS bombing. pic.twitter.com/dRZ4ksVKLI
— CBS Newspath (@cbsnewspath) July 5, 2016
Iraqis have taken to social media to complain about the fake detectors using the hashtag “soup detectors.” Additionally, the website for the Ministry of Interior was also hacked, and a photo of a bloody baby was posted alongside a bomb detector carrying inscriptions of the Islamic State.
A caption on the hacked website read, “I don’t know how you sleep at night… your conscience is dead.”
The device, known as the ADE 651, was allegedly sold by McCormick to the Iraqi government. He made over $80 million from selling the devices to a number of countries, including Iraq. He was arrested for selling the banned device in 2010 and jailed in 2014 by a U.K. court for fraud. McCormick’s company had claimed that the detector could detect explosives and drugs over a kilometer away. He even claimed that with the right “substance detection cards,” the device could also spot $100 bills and elephants. Sidney Alford, a bomb expert and consultant for the U.K. military, described the sale of the ADE-651 as “absolutely immoral.”
The death toll from the bomb blast, which took place in a Shia neighborhood in central Baghdad, presently stands at 200. The numbers are expected to increase as more bodies are pulled out of the rubble. Hundreds of people were killed when a truck stacked with explosives blew up on a crowded street filled with people. Many people died because of the resulting fire and smoke. The bombing is the deadliest this year and is coming on the heels of Iraqi fighters winning back territory from ISIS, including the important and strategic city of Fallujah, according to CNN.
Protesters marched to the prime minister’s house, throwing stones and accusing him of killing innocent people. A 35-year-old man who was part of the protest said that “people are waiting at checkpoints in the heat every day to pass by a fake detector, which is just a toy.”
[Photo by Karim Kadim/AP Images]