No Terrorist Involvement in Disappearance of Radioactive Device: Malaysian Police

Ali Nufael
Kuala Lumpur
180821-MY-radioactive-620.jpg A radioactive warning sign is seen on a container carrying nuclear waste as part of a convoy in Valognes, France, Nov. 22, 2011.

Malaysian police confirmed Tuesday that they were searching for a device with radioactive material which went missing 11 days ago, but ruled out that terrorists had laid hands on it.

The Radioactive Dispersal Device (RDD), weighing 23 kilos (50.7 pounds) and belonging to a local company, disappeared on Aug. 10 while being transported in the back of a pickup truck in the Kuala Lumpur area, according to the New Straits Times newspaper, which broke the story on Monday.

“We have investigated the case and found no links to terrorism. CID is handling it now,” Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, the head of the Malaysian police’s counter-terrorist special branch, told BenarNews, referring to the Criminal Investigation Department.

This has happened before, according to Malaysia’s police chief.

“The same thing happened last year, when a similar device went missing. The device is still missing,” Police Inspector-General Mohamad Fuzi Harun told reporters on Monday.

“Nobody has found it.”

Meanwhile on Tuesday, police in Selangor state said they formed a task force of officers and experts from the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) to search for the RDD device, which went missing earlier this month and contained the radioactive isotope Iridium 192.

Selangor Police Chief Mazlan Mansor told BenarNews that his officers were working with the AELB to safeguard people from being exposed to health risks from the radioactive material. Exposure to the isotope within a one-meter (3.2-foot) radius can cause vomiting or skin burns, he said.

Deputy Home Minister Azis Jamman told the public to not panic.

“So far, everything is under control. There is nothing to be worried about at this moment,” he said in a statement issued Monday.

The missing RDD was used in industrial radiography and belonged to a firm that conducts tests, calibrations and inspections for oil and gas companies and other heavy industry firms, BBC News reported.

Two technicians who transported the device on the night it went missing were released on bail after police held them for questioning in connection with the case, reports said.

A local security expert said Iridium 192 can fetch a good price on the international black market, but the isotope is not in great demand on the domestic market.

“We do not have enough knowledge in this field and we do not have groups that want this item for the black market,” retired Brig. Gen. Arshad Raji told BenarNews.

“It is different in Latin America or Middle East where such an item is expensive as it can be used as a dirty bomb. It is uncommon in Malaysia but I do hope that authorities can quickly retrieve the device,” he said.

Radiologist Abdul Nassir Ibrahim, meanwhile, said the missing device did not pose a threat to public health as long as it was not broken or leaking radioactive material.

It was unlikely that the device could be turned into a weapon, he added.

“I don’t see any possibility that in our country, the device will turn into a dirty bomb. Maybe in Chechnya or in Mindanao, but not here,” he told BenarNews.


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