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Recent reports have raised alarm bells over missing uranium ore from a storage site in Libya, as documents suggest the radioactive material could have been acquired by Islamic State militants.
The documents in question were obtained by the Associated Press (AP) from Libyan government officials in the war-torn country. The documents revealed that the uranium ore was being stored for the recovering Libyan nuclear program in an unmarked facility near the city of Sabha. In a report prepared for senior security officials, the uranium ore was described as having gone missing sometime in late 2013 or early 2014.
Uranium ore can be highly valuable on the black market and is a major component of nuclear weapons. Since the fall of Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in 2011, Libya has faced increasing security challenges. Islamist insurgencies, rival governments and civil war have left the country in a precarious situation, allowing militant groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to expand their influence.
Nuclear experts warn that ISIS could attempt to transform the uranium into weapons-grade material and potentially supply them to other militant groups. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is currently investigating the reports and has urged Libya to secure its nuclear materials more robustly.
The United Nations has also expressed concern over the incident and the potential nuclear security threats it threatens. It is calling on all states in the region to strengthen their nuclear material security systems, while also urging other countries to provide technical, logistical and legal assistance to the Libyan government to secure its nuclear materials.
Given the challenges facing Libya’s government, the question now remains whether enough resources can be mobilized to stop the uranium ore from falling into the wrong hands. As the risk of nuclear terrorism looms large, the stakes could not be much higher for international security.