In the hands of the right person, capsules of Ir-192, a radioactive isotope of iridium, can be used to treat cancer and save lives.
The same material in the wrong hands could potentially be used to take lives.
The International Atomic Energy Agency places Ir-192 as a Category 2 radioactive. The assertion is that exposure can prove to be fatal to those close by in a matter of days–or even hours.
Iraqi officials have confirmed that a protective case containing the radioactive material has been missing since last November.
Discussing the theft, an unnamed senior security official said, “We are afraid the radioactive element will fall into the hands of Daesh (ISIS).”
The official says that Ir-192 capsules could be attached to explosives to create a “dirty” bomb.
The material was being held in a storage facility owned by the U.S., in the Rafidhia area of Basra province.
So far, there is no evidence that ISIS has possession of the missing capsules; however, they have begun to use chemical weapons.
In what is believed to be the first use of a chemical weapon since 2003, ISIS used mustard gas in an attack on Kurdish forces last August. The attack resulted in the illness of 35 soldiers.
According to a security official, based on the initial investigation, it is believed that the thieves know how to gain access to the storage room as well as how to handle the element.
He said there were “no broken locks, no smashed doors and no evidence of forced entry.”
Army, police and intelligence forces are working “day and night” to locate the material, according to a spokesman for Basra operations command.