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article imageDangerous radioactive material goes missing in Iraq

By Karen Graham     Feb 18, 2016 in World
Basra - Iraq has been searching for some "highly dangerous" radioactive material stolen last year, according to an environment ministry document and seven Iraqi officials who fear it could be used as a weapon if acquired by ISIS.
In an exclusive story, a document seen by Reuters said radioactive material, stored in a laptop-sized case, went missing in November from a storage site near the southern city of Basra belonging to Houston-based oilfield services company Weatherford.
The document describes "the theft of a highly dangerous radioactive source of Ir-192 with highly radioactive activity belonging to SGS from a depot overseen by Weatherford in the Rafidhi area of Basra province," reports Fox News.
The radioactive material uses gamma rays to test for flaws in materials used in oil and gas pipelines in a process known as industrial gamma radiography. According to the document seen by Reuters, the material is owned by Istanbul-based SGS Turkey. An SGS official declined to comment, referring any questions to its headquarters in Turkey.
Weatherford, in a statement, said it was not responsible for the theft, and that Swiss inspections group SGS had responsibility for safeguarding the material. "We do not own, operate or control sources or the bunker where the sources are stored," it said.
India Today is reporting that in a statement, SGS said: "The site where these operations are conducted is fully secured and guarded by security guards under the responsibility of the owner of the site. SGS does not assume any responsibility for the site security and does not control accesses."
The document surfaces right behind the news that ISIS has been using chemical weapons on the Kurds. A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said officials are “aware of reports,” but deferred and questions to the Iraqi government
A senior environment ministry official based in Basra, who declined to be named as he is not authorized to speak publicly, told Reuters the missing case had up to 10 grams of Ir-192 "capsules," a radioactive isotope of iridium also used to treat cancer.
The material is classified as a Category-2 radioactive source by the International Atomic Energy Agency. It could be lethal if someone was exposed to it for a number of hours, and the bigger fear is that it could be used to make a dirty bomb.
Ryan Mauro, an adjunct professor at Clarion Project, a U.S. think tank that tracks terrorism, told Fox News even a low-grade dirty bomb would spread fear and panic in a population. "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."
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