Containers with 2.5 tons of uranium that the UN nuclear agency reported missing at a Libyan site have been recovereda military officer from the war-torn North African country announced Thursday.
The containers were found “barely 5 kilometers” from the place where the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had reported his disappearance, the commander indicated in a video Khaled al Mahjubbelonging to the forces of the strongman of eastern Libya, Khalifa Haftar.
The general published a video in which a man appears in a protective suit and counting, in English, eighteen blue containers, that is, all the uranium that he had stored there.
“The situation is under control, the IAEA was informed”General Mahjub told AFP.
In his publication, the general stated that after the disappearance of the containers was confirmed during a visit by IAEA inspectors, “an armed force of the [Ejército Nacional Libio] he found them just 5 kilometers from the deposit, in the direction of the Chadian border.”
The Libyan National Army is the force of Khalifa Haftar.
According to General Mahjub, the containers were stolen and then abandoned “by a Chadian faction, believing that they were weapons or ammunition.”
Taking advantage of the chaos and porous borders, various Chadian and Sudanese factions established their rear bases in southern neighboring Libya for their trafficking activities.
The IAEA warned on Wednesday that some 2.5 tons of natural uranium from a Libyan site was missing, according to a statement sent to AFP.
On Tuesday, inspectors from that UN agency discovered during a visit “that ten containers with about 2.5 tons of natural uranium in the form of uranium concentrate (UOC, also called”yellow cake” either yellow cake) were not present where the authorities had declared”, indicated the general director of the IAEA, Rafael Grossiin a report.
The IAEA declined to provide further details about the missing uranium. However, his admission that the uranium had disappeared at a “previously declared location” narrowed the odds.
One of those places is sabhalocated some 660 kilometers southeast of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, in the lawless Libyan region in the south of the Sahara desert. During the rule of the dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Libya stored thousands of barrels of unrefined uranium there for a uranium conversion plant that was planned and never built, as part of a secret weapons program that lasted for decades.
Estimates were for about 1,000 tons of uranium stored during the Gaddafi regime, which declared its fledgling nuclear weapons program to the world in 2003 following the US-led invasion of Iraq.
Although inspectors removed the last stocks of enriched uranium from Libya in 2009, yellowcake uranium was left behind. The United Nations estimated in 2013 that there were some 6,400 barrels of the material in Sabha. US officials feared that Iran might try to buy the uranium from Libya. According to a diplomatic dispatch published by WikiLeaksthe main person in charge of the Gaddafi government’s civilian nuclear program, tried to reassure the United States about that possibility in 2009.
“Stressing that Libya viewed the issue as a trade matter, (the official) noted that prices for yellowcake uranium on the world market had been rising, and that Libya wanted to maximize its profit by timing the sale of its reserves.” , indicated the then ambassador Gene A. Cretz.
But in the 2011 Arab Spring, rebels overthrew Gaddafi and eventually killed him. Sabha became increasingly lawless as the transit of African migrants through Libya grew, some of whom were sold into slavery in the city, according to the United Nations.
In recent years, Sabha has been largely under the control of the self-styled Libyan National Army. General Khalifa Haftar, widely regarded as a former CIA collaborator while in exile during the Gaddafi regime, has fought to seize control of Libya against a Tripoli-based government.
With information from AFP
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