News / Middle East

Iraq Requests Outside Help After ISIL Seizes Nuclear Materials

Islamist Militants Seize Radioactive Material in Iraqi
Henry Ridgwell
July 10, 2014 8:59 PM
The Iraqi government has asked for international help, after Sunni militants from the group called "the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" seized radioactive material from a university. It comes days after the militants took over a disused chemical weapons factory. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA that weapons experts are playing down any major threat from the seizures.
Islamist Militants Seize Radioactive Material in Iraq
Henry Ridgwell

The Iraqi government has asked for international assistance after Sunni militants from the group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seized nuclear material from a university in Mosul, Iraq’s second-biggest city, which they overran in June. But weapons experts are playing down any major threat from the seizure.

The Iraqi government warned Thursday that the militants had seized up to 40 kilograms of uranium compounds from Mosul University. The speed of the Iraqi military’s retreat from the rebels has left many sites unsecured, says Afzal Ashraf, counterterrorist expert at the Royal United Services Institute.

“There really wasn’t time for them to do anything.  And I don’t think anybody ever really had a contingency plan," he said. "And that’s something else that might come out of this, is to think about the sorts of things that you might want to protect in the event that a city or a town falls.”

Baghdad's appeal

In a letter to the United Nations, Baghdad appealed for international help to "stave off the threat" of the use of the nuclear material by terrorists in Iraq or abroad; but, the International Atomic Energy Agency says the material is low grade and does not pose a significant risk.

Still, Ashraf thinks the material could be used in a so-called “dirty bomb.”

“But what they could do if they were minded to do that, and with a little bit of expertise, is to make what people call a ‘dirty bomb.’  And that’s a conventional bomb where you pack some of this radioactive material around it so that when you explode this bomb, you contaminate a whole area around there,” he said.

The ISIL militants are also in control of an unused chemical weapons factory northwest of Baghdad; but experts say the munitions are degraded and unusable.

Mobilizing together

A month after the rebels began their advance, the Iraqi government appears so far unable to wrest back the territory it lost.

That will require engagement with local Sunnis alongside a military offensive, said Ranj Alaaldin of the London School of Economics.

“Much will depend on how the Iraqi state responds; whether that’s with the Iranians, or the Turks, or the Americans even," he said. "And whether they can sustain or try to influence events in the Sunni Arab north, perhaps with the support of local tribes or moderate Sunni actors.”

But the Baghdad government appears even more divided. Iraq’s Kurdish politicians announced a boycott of Cabinet meetings Thursday, after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused the northern autonomous Kurdish region of harboring the Sunni militants.

Observers say the dispute increases the likelihood that the Kurdistan regional government will attempt to break away from the Iraqi state.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: 1worldnow from: Earth
July 11, 2014 5:06 AM
Have no fear people, Obama is here! He will get right to soon as he finishes talking about it, then he will smile for the cameras, don't be so impatient! He will talk some more after that, but this time he will take some selfies, he's so cool! He'll threaten sanctions against ISIL, but his cabinet will tell him that ISIL is not a country. He'll then try to blame Bush, and the Republicans, and ask Michelle to gather up the girls for a family pic. He'll then check the polls to see if people still think he is a 'cool prez'.
In Response

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
July 13, 2014 10:03 PM
And "NO" Sharon, I do not think I am funny. I "KNOW" I am funny! Bush was a moron. Sleep tight. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
In Response

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
July 13, 2014 9:32 PM
Now do you people see what I mean about those who are so emboldened to worship, regardless of the facts! Look at this lady here, Sharon, who just defended Obama! Of course I was being funny, and sarcastic!!! She automatically assumed I am a Bush-ite, far from the truth. And for Sharon to be completely twisted with her knowledge of war. I am still serving, as well as Iraq, now in Afg. Completely twisting the facts, to support her unwaivering worship of the omnipotent (incompetent) Obama.

Maliki was in no position to tell the US what we can and can't do. Even our top military advisors told Obama to not completely withdraw from Iraq, Iraq was not ready. The pull out was our decision, not Maliki's!!! The complete pullout was Obama's campaign promise, and done at the appeasement of people like Sharon. So Sharon, based on your current understanding of war, why doesn't Obama do the same 'complete' pullout in Afghanistan? Afg has had a stable government longer than Iraq did before our complete withdrawal. We are not pulling out of Afg. You don't even have the corrective lenses in your eyes to see this clearly, because it will undermine your adoration of Obama.

Obama has armed and supplied the current barbarians known as ISIL. I bet you will find a way to blame Bush for that. Obama was born, raised, schooled, and indoctinated a Sunni Muslim (he is no Christian by any means!!!!). Sunnis and Shias are mortal enemies. Iraq is primarily a Shia nation, Obama armed the same people taking over Iraq by force and MURDERING women and children. Afg is a primarily Sunni nation, Obama is not pulling all troops out. But people like Sharon cannot put the 'Blame Bush campaign' behind them and see Obama for what he really is. Funny how those of us that have been serving our great nation for their entire careers can seet his clearly. People like Sharon still believe that Bush told hurricane Katrina where the Black neighborhoods were located in New Orleans, and to leave the White neighborhoods alone.

So Sharon, sit in your pentagram, surround yourself with candles, chant Obama while rocking back and forth. In the meantime, the world is falling apart. Innocent women and children are being slaughtered by the weapons that Obama supplied to them. I know you don't care about these people, but I do. They may be Muslims, but they are still my people, my family, but we all refer to them as part of the human race. Including you.
In Response

by: Sharon from: KY
July 12, 2014 11:44 PM
you must think you're funny. the president tried to leave troops there bet Maliki wasn't having it. now they are in trouble and he wants our troops back. the president told him no way.. I don't blame him, we lost enough men and women the first time around when your boy Bush started this stuff. if the leaky had listened to Obama, this never would have happened. too late now Obama is not sending troops back. it's time they figure this out on their own.

by: harry Kuheim from: USA
July 10, 2014 8:09 PM
Just call the UN...they can handle it....

by: WFHN from: California
July 10, 2014 8:08 PM
ISIL can use this radioactive stuff for a dirty bomb in Damascus and shake Bashaar Assad lose from his will scare the bageebers out of them because they cannot tell where it is and when it is coming.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs