Daesh goes nuclear
Militant group may have stolen radioactive material from Iraq
According to an environment ministry document obtained by Reuters, highly dangerous radioactive material was stolen from Iraq last year.
If acquired by Daesh, environmental and provincial officials fear it could be used as a weapon.
The deadly material – which was stored in a protective case the size of a laptop computer - went walkabouts in November from a storage facility belonging to US oilfield services company Weatherford near the southern city of Basra, officials confirmed.
The material, which uses gamma rays to test flaws in materials used for oil and gas pipelines in a process called industrial gamma radiography, is owned by Istanbul-based SGS Turkey, according to the document and officials.
Large quantities of Ir-192 have gone missing before in the US, Britain and other countries, sparking fears among security officials that it could be used to make a dirty bomb, which is a mixture of nuclear material with conventional explosives to contaminate an area with radiation. This is in contrast to a nuclear weapon, which uses nuclear fission to trigger a vastly more powerful mushroom blast.
A Weatherford spokesman in Iraq declined to comment, and the company’s Houston headquarters has failed to comment.
Iraq’s environment ministry spokesman said he could not discuss the issue, for national security concerns.
The US State Department said it was aware of the reports but has seen no evidence that Daesh or other militant groups have stolen it.
In November, a US official said separately that Iraq had reported a missing specialized camera containing highly radioactive Iridium-192 to a Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog.
The official, who cannot be named due to the sensitivity of the matter, said: “They've been looking for it ever since. Whether it was just misplaced, or actually stolen, isn't clear.”
The radioactive material could also cause harm simply by being left exposed in a public place for a few days.
David Albright, a physicist and president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security told the Guardian: “If they left it in some crowded place, that would be more of the risk. If they kept it together but without shielding.
“Certainly it’s not insignificant. You could cause some panic with this. They would want to get this back.”
Army and police are working ‘day and night’ to find the stolen material, a spokesman for Basra operations command told Reuters.
Last May, a Daesh in-house magazine boasted that the terrorist group may acquire nuclear weapons within a year.
The article said it was possible to buy nuclear the weapons in Pakistan.