Dirty Bomb Fears Rise After ISIS Seizes Uranium

Friday, 11 Jul 2014 12:24 PM

By Melanie Batley

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ISIS terrorists who captured major parts of Iraq have seized enough radioactive uranium that could be used to make a dirty bomb, experts say, and there are also concerns that the group may have obtained chemical weapons, The Times of London reported.

The jihadists obtained an estimated 90 pounds of uranium after raiding a university complex in the Iraqi city of Mosul. This is believed to be the first time an Islamic terror group has been able to obtain such a large quantity of radioactive material.

The Iraqi government yesterday appealed to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon for international help to "stave off the threat of their use by terrorists in Iraq or abroad," according to the Times.

But the International Atomic Energy Agency and western governments have played down the threat, saying that the uranium is of relatively low radioactivity designed to be used in medical research.

"On the basis of the initial information, we believe the material involved is low grade and would not present a significant safety, security or nuclear proliferation risk," IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor told the Times.

Other experts disagree. "You cannot make a nuclear explosive from this amount, but all uranium compounds are poisonous," Olli Heinonen, a former IAEA chief inspector, told the Times.

Meanwhile, ISIS took over a military base in northern Iraq last month that contains a stockpile of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's chemical weapons, including hundreds of warheads containing sarin and mustard gas.

Colonel de Gordon-Bretton told the Times, however, that they still only pose a small threat as the bunkers are sealed in reinforced concrete, making it very difficult for the militants to gain access. The sarin gas is also likely to have degraded, although the mustard gas could still be potent, he said.

He added that U.S. satellites would be closely monitoring the base for any evidence the militants were attempting to access the bunkers.

"The real victory is the kind of fear it will instill," Dina Esfandiary, a research associate in the non-proliferation program at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told the Times.

Related Stories:
Kurds Pull Out of Iraqi Government
Sen. John Barrasso: ISIS Is Threat to US Homeland

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