Skip to main content

U.S. officials: Terrorist seizure of nuclear materials in Iraq of minimal concern

By Jethro Mullen, CNN
updated 8:57 AM EDT, Thu July 10, 2014
An Iraqi child walks through a displacement camp Saturday, June 28, in Khazair, Iraq. Vast swaths of northern Iraq, including the cities of Mosul and Tal Afar, have fallen as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, advances toward Baghdad, the capital. The ISIS militants want to establish a caliphate, or Islamic state, in the region, stretching from Iraq into northern Syria. An Iraqi child walks through a displacement camp Saturday, June 28, in Khazair, Iraq. Vast swaths of northern Iraq, including the cities of Mosul and Tal Afar, have fallen as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, advances toward Baghdad, the capital. The ISIS militants want to establish a caliphate, or Islamic state, in the region, stretching from Iraq into northern Syria.
HIDE CAPTION
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
Iraq under siege
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Iraq: Terrorist groups have control of about 40 kilos of uranium compounds
  • U.S. officials say concern is minimal as the materials aren't enriched or weapons-grade
  • The compounds were used by university departments in Mosul for study and research
  • Iraqi ambassador asks U.N. for help "to stave off the threat of their use"

(CNN) -- Militants in Iraq have taken hold of nuclear materials at university science facilities near the northern city of Mosul, the Iraqi government has said in a letter to the United Nations.

But two U.S. officials told CNN on Wednesday that the small amounts of uranium aren't enriched or weapons-grade, prompting only minimal concern.

The letter from Iraq's U.N. ambassador about the uranium compounds asks for help "to stave off the threat of their use by terrorists in Iraq or abroad" as the country struggles with a deadly insurgency.

In the letter, obtained Wednesday by CNN, Iraqi Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim said that "terrorist groups have seized control" of nearly 40 kilograms (90 pounds) of uranium compounds at science departments at the University of Mosul after the sites "came out of control of the state."

Could ISIS leader become a drone target?
Iraqi family counts cost of ISIS conflict
Coping with chaos in Baghdad
Does video show ISIS leader in Iraq?

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, an al Qaeda splinter group, has led Sunni insurgents who have taken over large areas of northern and western Iraq in an offensive that began last month. The terrorist group has also made major gains in Syria in its quest to establish an Islamic state spanning both countries.

In his letter, dated Tuesday, Alhakim said the nuclear materials were used in "very limited quantities" for scientific study and research. But he warned that despite the small amounts, the materials could be used by terrorists in Iraq or smuggled out of the country.

"Such materials can be used in manufacturing weapons of mass destruction," Alhakim wrote in the letter, which was first reported by Reuters.

Iraq witnessed another violent day Wednesday as the country's security and political crises deepened.

More than 50 unidentified bodies were found in the predominantly Shiite town of Alexandria on Wednesday, Iraqi security officials said.

The bodies of two children were among the dozens found in different parts of the town.

Details about the circumstances of the deaths were not immediately available, and officials did not say when the people may have been killed.

Not far from Alexandria, at least five people were killed and 17 wounded by three car bombs that exploded in front of a courthouse in the town of Hilla, security and medical officials said.

Hilla is about 92 kilometers (57 miles) south of Baghdad and is the first sizable town south of the capital.

READ: Signs of war: Life amid Iraqi conflict

READ: Iraq to split in three: So why not?

READ: The orphans of Iraq

CNN's Richard Roth, Elise Labott, Hamdi Alkhshali and Chelsea J. Carter contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Iraq
Get all the latest news and updates on Iraq in Arabic by visiting CNN Arabic.
ISIS has spread from Syria into Iraq. Learn where the militant strongholds are.
updated 7:46 AM EDT, Fri July 11, 2014
Staring up at the stained hospital ceiling, Hassan recounts the fierce firefight on the streets of Ramadi that landed him here.
updated 9:56 PM EDT, Tue July 8, 2014
'Why do these people kill other people?" For Iraq's youngest residents, the tragedy in the country is almost incompreensible.
Even those who aren't in the line of fire feel the effects of the chaos that has engulfed Iraq since extremists attacked.
updated 2:04 AM EDT, Tue July 8, 2014
In a palm orchard in Baghdad, women learn how to protect their children and homes, afraid if ISIS penetrates the Iraqi capital.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Tue July 8, 2014
Joe Biden once argued it was time to split Iraq into three parts: Kurdish, Shia and Sunni. And why not?
updated 4:17 PM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
CNN's Hala Gorani speaks to terrorism expert Peter Neumann about video that purports to show ISIS' leader in Iraq.
updated 6:58 PM EDT, Sun July 6, 2014
CNN's Arwa Damon gets exclusive access to the front lines of the Iraqi Army's defense against advancing ISIS militants.
updated 10:20 AM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
A Colorado woman was arrested at the Denver airport and charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.
updated 8:21 PM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
CNN's Nima Elbagir rides with police special forces as they attempt to secure Baghdad from enemies within the city.
updated 11:13 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
Faisal Al Yafai: The caliphate is not the answer to Iraq's wars -- but neither is division. For better or worse, the Mideast is stuck with its current borders.
updated 6:17 PM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Saudi dissident and suspected terrorist leader Osama bin Laden is seen in this undated file photo taken somewhere in Afghanistan.
The creation of a caliphate was Osama bin Laden's dream. ISIS is attempting to make it a reality.
updated 5:21 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Under a sweltering sun, Fallah al Araiby hunched over the hood of a car, scrubbing away the dirt.
updated 12:00 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
The extremist group that's taken over a large swath of western and northern Iraq announced on Sunday the establishment of a "caliphate."
updated 12:58 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
CNN's Nic Robertson journeys to the front lines, where old Iraqi tanks are being used to keep ISIS out of Baghdad.
updated 9:19 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
CNN's Arwa Damon reports on how Iraqis are living under ISIS control in Mosul.
updated 4:25 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
The US isn't doing airstrikes in Iraq. Is there a vacuum for Syria and Iran to step in? CNN's Fareed Zakaria weighs in.
updated 10:29 AM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
T-shirts, hoodies and even toy figurines bearing the ISIS logo are being sold on online and marketed across social media.
updated 9:39 PM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
CNN's Arwa Damon shares one mixed Sunni-Shiite family's story out of Iraq amid increased worry ISIS is taking over.
ADVERTISEMENT