Security officials are concerned that radioactive material stolen from an Iraqi facility could wind up in the hands of the Islamic State group.
Reuters reports that a small suitcase containing up to 10 grams if Ir-192 — a radioactive isotope of iridium — went missing from a storage facility near Basra in November.
The facility is owned by Weatherford, a Houston-based oilfield services company, while the radioactive material was owned by Istanbul-based SGS Turkey.
Ir-192 is used to test for flaws in oil and gas pipelines and as a treatment for cancer, but it can also cause permanent injury to humans if they are improperly exposed. For those in close proximity to Ir-192 over a span of hours or days, the exposure can be fatal.
A document from Iraq's environmental ministry reported "the theft of a highly dangerous radioactive source of Ir-192 with highly radioactive activity."
Authorities were reportedly working "day and night" to find the Ir-192, which could cause significant pollution if improperly handled by thieves. The Weatherford facility did not show signs of forced entry — which suggested that the perpetrators were familiar with it — but no suspects have emerged.
Security exports told Reuters that bad actors could relatively simply attach the material to explosives to create a "dirty bomb."
The report said that there was no indication that the material had found its way to IS, and noted that large quantities of the material had previously gone missing in other countries.