Islamic State insurgents seized nuclear materials, Iraq warns the UN

Iraq appeals for help from international community after 40kg of uranium compounds stolen from university in territory held by group known as the Islamic State

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 July, 2014, 9:46am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 July, 2014, 11:48pm

Insurgents in Iraq have seized nuclear materials used for scientific research at a university in the country's north, Iraq told the UN in a letter appealing for help to "stave off the threat of their use by terrorists in Iraq or abroad".

A US government source said the materials were not believed to be enriched uranium and would be difficult to use to manufacture into a weapon.

Nearly 40kg of uranium compounds were kept at Mosul University, Iraq's UN ambassador, Mohamed Ali Alhakim, told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in the July 8 letter, obtained on Wednesday.

Iraq is notifying the international community ... and asking for help

"Terrorist groups have seized control of nuclear material at the sites that came out of the control of the state," Alhakim wrote, adding that such materials "can be used in manufacturing weapons of mass destruction".

"These nuclear materials, despite the limited amounts mentioned, can enable terrorist groups, with the availability of the required expertise, to use it separate or in combination with other materials in its terrorist acts," Alhakim said.

He warned that they could also be smuggled out of Iraq.

A Sunni Muslim group known as the Islamic State is spearheading a patchwork of insurgents who have taken over large swathes of Syria and Iraq.

"Iraq is notifying the international community of these dangerous developments and asking for help," Alhakim wrote.

Iraq acceded to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material on Monday, said the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The convention requires signatory states to protect nuclear facilities and material, and for cooperation between such states to recover stolen material.