Officials in Iraq have confirmed that missing radioactive material was found intact near a Zubayr gas station. In November, 2015, the material was reported stolen from a secured bunker near Basra Province. The theft was specifically disturbing, as officials were concerned it was stolen by a terrorist organization.
The radioactive Iridium-192 was enclosed inside a specialized camera, which is used to test the structural integrity of oil pipelines. CNN reports the camera was owned by SGS Turkey, which was contracted by Weatherford to perform the testing.
Although it was reportedly stored in a secured bunker, the camera simply vanished.
As reported by RT, authorities revealed there were “no broken locks, no smashed doors, and no evidence of forced entry” into the bunker. Company officials were hesitant to discuss details about the disturbing incident. However, a United States official, who wished to remain anonymous, said it was unclear “whether it was misplaced, or actually stolen.”
Authorities throughout Iraq searched for the radioactive material for months. Unfortunately, it remained missing for four months.
Reuters reports the radioactive material was encased inside the camera, which was stored in another container the size of a standard laptop computer.
Basra security chief Jabbar al-Saidi confirmed the dangerous device was discovered near a gas station by “a passer-by.” Thankfully, the person realized the device could be dangerous and contacted authorities immediately.
Al-Saidi also confirmed the device was found completely intact inside the protective case, and “there is absolutely no concern of radiation.”
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 21, 2016
Authorities believe someone stole the radioactive material from the Iraq bunker and dumped it near the gas station. It is unclear why the device was stolen, or why it was dumped 30 miles away from the bunker. However, al-Saidi was adamant that “it is only a matter of time before [authorities] arrest those who stole the radioactive device.”
Although the bunker belongs to SGS, Al Jazeera reports that neither SGS, nor Weatherford, is willing to take responsibility for the apparent security breach.
The discovery of the radioactive material in Iraq quelled fears that the dangerous device ended up in the hands of terrorists.
In a February interview with Fox News, Clarion Project adjunct Professor Ryan Mauro offered his opinion as to why terrorists would have stolen radioactive material from the Iraq facility.
“Shaping headlines is essential to ISIS. Jihad… beheadings, explosions and most brutal acts have become stale… A dirty bomb attack would be major news… It also leads to ongoing media coverage of the victims’ conditions from the radiation exposure… “
Although global fatalities and injuries from chemical weapon attacks spiked to nearly 1,200 in 2012, they decreased sharply between 2014 and 2016.
Despite rumors to the contrary, Iraq authorities did disclose any evidence to suggest the radioactive material was ever in the hands of a terrorist or a terrorist organization.
However, an official did confirm “that [the radioactive material] was being kept in Zubair, and controls had been tightened to prevent it being taken out of the town.” The official said the device was likely dumped when the thief or thieves were unable to transport it to another location.”
— CNN (@CNN) February 18, 2016
The official did not disclose any individual suspects or terrorist organizations that may have been responsible for the theft.
Although the radioactive device could have been used to detonate a “dirty” bomb,” it was dumped before anyone was harmed. Authorities also confirmed the protective case was not compromised in any way.
Officials in Iraq said the radioactive materials were taken to a secure facility, which was not disclosed. The investigation into the theft is still ongoing.
[Image via KANUN.studio/Shutterstock]