More than 2 tons of missing radioactive uranium have been found near a warehouse in southern Libya after its disappearance sparked nuclear safety concerns, according to military officials.
Khaled Mahjoub, a spokesperson for the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), said in a statement Thursday that the 10 barrels had been recovered, though a video he shared showed workers counting 18 containers.
Some of the blue-painted drums in the video displayed what appeared to be batch numbers.
However, the footage did not show the barrels being opened.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog, said in a confidential statement to member states seen by Reuters that its inspectors had reported about 2.5 tons of uranium missing during a check at an unspecified site in the war-torn country Tuesday.
According to the IAEA, the facility is located in an area that is not under the control of the Government of National Unity in Tripoli and requires “complex logistics” to reach it.
Mahjoub said the site was a warehouse near the border with Chad that the IAEA last visited in 2020 and sealed with red wax.
The barrels were discovered abandoned about 3 miles from the storage facility.
He speculated that a group of separatist fighters from Chad had raided the warehouse and stolen the barrels, hoping they might contain weapons or ammunition, but had subsequently ditched them.
The IAEA said it was aware of media reports that the uranium has been found and was working to verify them.
The UN agency earlier warned that the missing uranium could pose a nuclear security threat.
Although natural uranium ore cannot immediately be used to make a nuclear bomb, a group armed with expertise and the needed equipment, including centrifuges, could refine each ton of the material to 12 pounds of weapons-grade uranium.
The LNA, commanded by warlord Khalifa Haftar, was battling rival western forces until 2020, before a ceasefire was declared, leaving the country divided.
Control of the country is split between the internationally recognized government in the capital, Tripoli, headed by Chairman of the Presidential Council of the State of Libya Mohamed al-Menfi, and the House of Representatives in the eastern city of Tobruk.
With Post wires