ISIS Seizes Nuclear Materials in Iraq

Iraq warns UN that Jihadist group captured uranium compounds; US and UN brush off threat of 'dirty bomb.'

Ari Yashar ,

ISIS fighters parade in Raqqa, Syria (file)
ISIS fighters parade in Raqqa, Syria (file)

Iraq warned the United Nations (UN) on Thursday that in capturing large portions of the country last month, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) also seized nuclear materials used in research at a university in Mosul, Iraq's second largest city.

Iraqi Ambassador to the UN Mohammed Ali Alhakim wrote in a letter to the UN, which was seen by Reuters, that roughly 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of uranium compounds were captured by the radical Jihadist group.

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

Citing fears of a "dirty bomb" or "pocket nuke," in which nuclear materials are combined with conventional explosives, Alhakim asked for international aid to "stave off the threat of their use by terrorists in Iraq or abroad."

However, the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) brushed off the plea, claiming the material was "low grade" and was not a significant threat.

IAEA spokesperson Gil Tudor said Thursday the nuclear material "would not present a significant safety, security or nuclear proliferation risk," reports BBC. At the same time, Tudor added that "any loss of regulatory control over nuclear and other radioactive materials is a cause for concern."

Meanwhile US officials also reportedly have dismissed the threat, saying the uranium was not thought to be enriched and that it would be difficult to weaponize the materials.

Iraqi and Kurdish forces at odds against ISIS

Iraqi forces have been largely unprepared to confront the sudden ISIS threat.

A falling out occurred between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) on Wednesday, after al-Maliki claimed the Kurds were protecting ISIS fighters in the Kudish city of Erbil.

Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani's spokesperson struck back, saying Maliki is "hysterical" and urging him to retire.

"You have destroyed the country and someone who has destroyed the country cannot save the country from crises," the spokesperson said addressing Maliki.

ISIS has rapidly expanded its strength since launching a blitz offensive in Iraq last month. It has captured numerous weapons there, including a long-range Scud missile which it transferred to Syria, and which a member of the group threatened is "heading towards Israel."

The Jihadist group, which broke off from Al Qaeda last year, has captured several Syrian oil fields, including the largest oil field in the country. In Iraq, it has seized the country's largest oil refinery, a chemical weapons facility, and became the "world's richest terrorist organization" by looting 500 billion Iraqi dinars ($425 million) from banks in Mosul.

A video uploaded by the group revealed Thursday that ISIS terrorists are active in Gaza as well, firing rockets on Israeli civilian centers.