Old-fashioned checkpoints lead to higher casualties from violence

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By Fatih Abdulsalam

Azzaman, March 18, 2014

Long queues of cars form at entrances and roads leading to Iraq’s major cities as they await their turn for inspection by checkpoints manned by security guards.

The guards rely on old-fashioned search techniques and takes them ages to search properly a few vehicles.

The approach Iraqi security forces employ to search vehicles is naïve and normally useless.

Iraqis cities and particularly major roads leading to them are always jammed with cars, the thing that turns any explosion by suicide bombers into a massive tragedy, resulting in bloody scenes with scores of fatalities.

This is exactly what happened recently in the southern city of Hilla, when a suicide car bomber blew himself and his vehicle up amid scores of cars caught in a traffic jam.

The number of casualties and damage would not have been on such a horrifying scale if there were no queues or traffic jams.

Long queues and traffic jams have become part of life in Iraqi cities and towns and the authorities should do something to solve the situation.

Suicide bombers’ main target is to inflict as many casualties and damage as possible regardless of whether their victims are children, women or ordinary people. Traffic jams and long queues of cars become their preferred targets.

There are different alternatives and solutions and all require seriousness, thoughtful mind and clean hands – the three elements which I am afraid are not available right now in Iraq.

But let us be optimistic and think that the authorities would consider establishing a scientific and technological commission of traffic experts who will come up with practical, useful and relevant proposals that will ease traffic jams.

One proposal could be the use of electronic devices for searches at checkpoints, more lanes so that as many cars as possible could cross and more security guards at checkpoints.

Solutions to lessen pain from suicide attacks should not be a problem for a country with Iraq’s riches and massive oil revenues.