Finger pointing over potential ISIS 'dirty bomb'

Swiss and American inspections groups scramble to exonerate themselves following report that radioactive material was stolen.

Ari Yashar ,

Chemical warfare (illustration)
Chemical warfare (illustration)
IDF spokesman's unit

In the aftermath of reports Wednesday that a case containing “highly dangerous” radioactive material was stolen from a storage facility in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, the Swiss inspections group SGS and the US group Weatherford International Plc on Thursday played a blame game.

Both denied responsibility for the disappearance of the laptop-sized package that carried a sizable quantity of Iridium-192, a radioactive isotope tracked by nuclear safety agencies due to its potential use in radioactive weapons. It was feared the material could serve as a "dirty bomb" if acquired by Islamic State (ISIS).

In a statement Thursday SGS said the material, used to test pipes at a local oil field, was stored in a "secured bunker" provided by Weatherford, which it said was the "main contractor," according to Reuters on Friday.

“The disappearance of the equipment occurred while the equipment was stored in the Weatherford bunker,” added the group, noting the disappearance was discovered on November 3.

In response, Weatherford fired back that it is not responsible or liable for the loss, and that it had given answers to all inquiries by the Iraqi and American authorities.

“SGS Supervise Gozetme Etud Control had sole control and access to the material and bunker,” said the group, referencing the Turkish unit of SGS.

But SGS didn't let it drop there, saying its staff needed Weatherford's prior written approval in order to gain access to the site.

“The site where these operations are conducted is fully secured and guarded by security guards under the responsibility of the owner of the site. SGS does not assume any responsibility for the site security and does not control accesses,” SGS said, noting many contractors used the site.

SGS went on to say it has no contract with the Iraqi security company Ta'az, which it says controlled the site and hired expatriate workers.