A newly uncovered report reveals authorities in Iraq are on a desperate hunt for “highly dangerous” radioactive materials that went missing from a storage facility in the southern city of Basra several weeks ago. The material, stored in a container the size of a laptop, was last seen in possession of a Houston-based oil industry contractor, Weatherford. Many fear the material could now be in the hands of ISIS/Deash who of course, would attempt to use the dangerous radioactive material in construction of a “dirty bomb”.
The report describes the event as “theft of a highly dangerous radioactive source of Ir-192 with highly radioactive activity.” Weatherford blames Istanbul-based SGS for the security breach, claiming they were responsible for safeguarding the material. In an official statement to Reuters, Weatherford stated:
“Weatherford has no responsibility or liability in relation to this matter because we do not own, operate or control sources or the bunker where the sources are stored. SGS is the owner and operator of the bunker and sources and solely responsible for addressing this matter.”
There is no word on how potent the stolen material is, which would depend its age, but regardless, its potential use in a conventional explosive laced with lower-grade nuclear material is unquestionable.
According to the report, the material is encased in hundreds of tiny capsules and is classified as a Category 2 radioactive source by the International Atomic Energy Agency, meaning it could cause permanent injury to anyone in close proximity for minutes and could be fatal to someone exposed for a period of hours.
Circumstances under which the material went missing are highly suspicious. A security official told Reuters that there were “no broken locks, no smashed doors, and no evidence of forced entry” hinting that the perpetrators knew what they were doing or were assisted by an insider.
Ryan Mauro, professor at Clarion Project, told Fox News:
“Shaping headlines is essential to ISIS’ jihad and beheadings, explosions and most brutal acts have become stale. A dirty bomb attack would be major news, regardless of how many immediate casualties occur. It also leads to ongoing media coverage of the victims’ conditions from the radiation exposure because audiences will want to know what actually happens if this were to happen where they live.”
Besides the risk of a dirty bomb, the radioactive material could cause harm simply by being left exposed in a public place for several days, said David Albright, a physicist and president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security.
“If they left it in some crowded place, that would be more of the risk, if they kept it together but without shielding… You could cause some panic with this. They will want to get this back.”
The report comes on the heels of news that the Islamic State (Daesh) has manufactured chemical weapons (mustard gas) and used them on Kurds in Iraq and Syria. Officials from all countries involved are refusing to comment publicly on the incident.