March 20, 2012, was the deadliest day in Iraq so far for the month. At least fifteen bombs went off in ten different cities across the country. That included the capital, Kirkuk in Tamim province, Baiji and Samarra in Salahaddin, Baquba, the capital of Diyala, Mosul in Ninewa, Fallujah and Ramadi in Anbar, Karbala, and Hillah in Babil governorate, resulting in at least 50 deaths, and dozens more wounded. In Baghdad, a car bomb detonated outside of the Foreign Ministry. Another bomb went off by a Christian church in the Mansour district, there was an explosion in central Baghdad, and an attempt on the life of the head of the provincial council by a suicide bomber. Al Qaeda in Iraq’s umbrella organization, the Islamic State of Iraq, later took responsibility for the attacks, saying they wanted to disrupt the upcoming Arab League Summit happening in Baghdad. Every month or so, militants are able to carry off operations like these, which are aimed at undermining the government, and gaining press coverage to make it seem like Iraq is an unstable country. One of the reasons why terrorists are able to successfully detonate so many devices, and get them through the numerous checkpoints in places like Baghdad, is the security forces reliance upon fake bomb detectors.
In 2007, the Iraqi Interior Ministry began buying ADE-651 bomb detectors from the British company ATSC. The devices seemed too good to be true. The English firm claimed that they could detect guns, ammunition, drugs, truffles, human bodies, and ivory, and did not need batteries. Instead, the users were supposed to build up static electricity through walking. The Americans immediately warned the Iraqis that the purchase was a huge waste of money, but the Iraqis went ahead anyway. In 2009, the British government began investigating the company, and in 2010 the owner was arrested for fraud, and the devices were banned from further sales. The inspector general (IG) for the Interior Ministry began looking into the matter, and in October 2010 said that the ADE-651s did not work. They could not do anything however, because the Interior Minister Jawad Bolani used Article 136(b) of the constitution to stop any further investigation. In March 2011, Interior’s IG revealed that up to 75% of the $122 million spent on the bomb detectors actually went to kickbacks for Iraqi officials. That led to the arrest of the head of the Ministry’s bomb division. This was only possible because Minister Bolani was no longer in office after the March 2010 parliamentary elections. Despite all this, ADE-651s can still be seen across checkpoints throughout Baghdad. Below are pictures by Al-Khafaji Mohammed of the Iraqi photo blog BAGHDAD, showing the detectors being used in various security spots in the capital. This is just one example of the institutional corruption prevalent throughout Iraq. This is an especially troubling one however, because hundreds of citizens have probably died due to the use of these fake devices. It’s no wonder then that insurgents are still able to set off bombs in Iraq.
Ahma, Rezan and al-Shilshil, Othman, “Three killed, 8 injured in Nineveh and Salahaddin attacks,” AK News, 3/20/12
Al-Babili, Yousef, “One civilian killed and dozens injured in Babil car bomb,” AK News, 3/20/12
Brosk, Raman, “Baghdad governor survives assassination attempt,” AK News, 3/20/12
Healy, Jack, “Attacks Strike as Iraq Plans to Welcome Arab Leaders,” New York Times, 3/20/12
Iraq Body Count, “Recent Events”
Msarbat, Anwar, “1 policeman dead, 4 injured in Falluja,” AK News, 3/19/12
- “Ramadi bombings toll rises to 6 dead and 22 injured,” AK News, 3/20/12
National Iraqi News Agency, “BREAKING NEWS…Kirkuk districts police chief survives assassination attempt,” 3/20/12
- “Death toll of Baquba explosion raised to 20 wounded,” 3/20/12
Al-Shilshi, Othman, “5 injured in Salahaddin attacks,” AK News, 3/20/12
Tawfeeq, Mohammed, “Iraq bombings meant to target summit security, militant group says,” CNN, 3/21/12