The radioactive ore was allegedly stolen from a warehouse before it was abandoned near the border with Chad
Roughly 2.5 tons of uranium reported missing from a site in Libya has been recovered by armed forces based in the country’s east, a military spokesman said, just one day after the UN’s nuclear agency sounded alarms over the lost material.
A media official for the Libyan National Army (LNA), General Khaled Mahjoub, said the ten missing barrels of uranium ore concentrate were found just 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the warehouse they were originally stored in southern Libya, near the Chadian border.
Mahjoub speculated that rebels from the neighboring state may have stolen the large blue drums from the warehouse believing they held weapons or ammunition, but later ditched them.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations’ main nuclear watchdog, first reported the uranium ore missing on Wednesday, following an inspection the day prior. In a statement obtained by Reuters, IAEA head Rafael Grossi said the material was “not present” at its declared location, and that the agency would investigate further to determine how it was removed from the warehouse.
The IAEA said it was aware of the announcement from the LNA general and was still working to confirm the information. Though ten barrels were said to be missing, a video shared by the LNA appeared to show 18 containers in total, according to Reuters. It is unclear what explains the discrepancy.
Headed by commander Khalifa Haftar, the LNA serves as the armed forces for a government body based in Tobruk, and does not recognize the authority of the UN-backed interim state in Tripoli created in the fallout of Libya’s civil war.
In 2011, the UN Security Council approved an American proposal to create a no-fly zone over Libya on ostensibly humanitarian grounds, amid growing conflict between rebels and government forces under Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. NATO would immediately launch a bombing campaign against the government, while the US and UK navies blockaded the Libyan coast. Gaddafi was gruesomely killed by rebels in a roadside execution in October 2011, prompting years of armed conflict between multiple rival factions.