'Missing' radioactive material that sparked Isis bomb fears has been found, Iraqi officials say

Officials still can't explain how the device went missing, but say it was not taken by Isis

Adam Withnall
Sunday 21 February 2016 14:13 GMT
(File image) The radioactive material went missing from an oil company's storage facility
(File image) The radioactive material went missing from an oil company's storage facility (Getty Images)

Officials in Iraq have reportedly recovered a "highly dangerous" radioactive material which went missing last year, prompting fears it could fall into Isis hands.

The device was found dumped near a petrol station some 15km from the oil company storage facility where it went missing in November, a spokesman for the Iraqi environment ministry told Reuters.

The material, contained in a special protective case roughly the size of a laptop, included a "highly dangerous radioactive source" and could have been combined with conventional explosives to create a dirty bomb, officials had warned.

Ameer Ali told Reuters the device, which used gamma rays to test for flaws in pipeline materials, had not been damaged and had been recovered by radiation prevention specialists.

"A passer-by found the radioactive device dumped in Zubair and immediately informed security forces," the chief of security panel in Basra provincial council, Jabbar al-Saidi, said.

"After initial checking I can confirm the device is intact 100 per cent and there is absolutely no concern of radiation."

Leaked environment agency documents revealed last week that the device had been missing since at least 30 November, prompting international concern.

An unnamed senior security official with knowledge of the apparent theft said at the time: "We are afraid the radioactive element will fall into the hands of Daesh (Isis).

"They could simply attach it to explosives to make a dirty bomb”.

Unlike a nuclear bomb, which uses uses nuclear fission to trigger a vastly more powerful blast, a dirty bomb simply uses a conventional blast to disseminate nuclear material, potentially causing radiation damage over a wide area.

Officials said the device contained up to 10 grams (0.35 ounces) of Ir-192, a radioactive isotope of iridium also used to treat cancer. The material is classed as a Category 2 radioactive by the International Atomic Energy Agency - meaning it can be fatal to someone exposed for a matter of days or even hours."

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