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Missing radioactive material found in Iraq

By Shawn Price   |   Feb. 22, 2016 at 12:28 AM

ZUBAYR, Iraq, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Missing radioactive material was found dumped in a gas station near the southern town of Zubayr, Iraq on Sunday.

The missing material was an industrial radiography device about the size of a laptop, stolen in November from a oil services contractor in Basra. The theft was reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency at the time.

The fear was the material had fallen into the hands of the Islamic State or another terrorist group, but the missing device, which uses the radioactive isotope Iridium-192 , was found intact.

"We don't have any concern about radiation since the case has not been damaged at all," Iraq's deputy health minister, Dr. Jassim al-Falahi told CNN.

Though sometimes used in radiotherapy, industrial radiography devices like the one recovered use beams of gamma radiation to test oil pipelines for structural problems. Regardless of how they are used, the gamma rays in the device can be deadly at close distance.

As soon as the theft was discovered, security was tightened in Zabyr to keep it from escaping the city, an Iraqi security official said.

"The perpetrators decided to dump it," the official said. "It is only a matter of time before we arrest those who stole the radioactive device."

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