US general questions Iraq bomb detection kit
Major General Robert Rowe told reporters in Baghdad he was at odds with Iraqi officials on whether the ADE 651, a pistol-shaped gadget made in Britain which uses an antenna and is known as the "magic wand," worked.
"We do not agree on the technical capability of the device that is used here widely by the Iraqi forces," said Rowe, naming the chief of the interior ministry's directorate for combating explosives Major General Jihad al-Jabiri.
Security at checkpoints is especially sensitive in the wake of twin bombings at government offices on October 25 which killed 153 people and wounded 500. The attacks were claimed by a group linked to Al-Qaeda.
Rowe, director of the US army's training and advisory mission in Iraq, was quoted Tuesday in a New York Times report as saying: "I have no confidence that these work," when talking about the ADE 651.
Jabiri in the same article defended the gadget, reputed to cost between 16,500 and 60,000 dollars each and used at hundreds of checkpoints, and said "whether it's magic or scientific, what I care about is it detects bombs."
However Rowe, who on a previous tour of Iraq served as an infantry brigade commander, said he preferred more traditional methods used to spot explosives.
"I am unaware and we have not been able to find for our forces an assured, highly probable technological solution that allows us to detect explosive devices," he said.
"From a distance the best capability is highly trained soldiers and policemen attempting to recognise habits that might give you a reason to look closer. Much like when you go to an airport and your briefcase is swabbed."
He also said sniffer dogs, baggage screening machines, vehicle scanners and closed circuit television systems could be used more effectively.