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Report: Iraq finds stolen radioactive material dumped in south

A security guard walks past the Weatherford booth during the Basra International trade fair for oil and gas in Basra, Iraq in a November 25, 2010, file photo.

REUTERS/Atef Hassan/Files

BAGHDAD - Missing radioactive material believed taken from a U.S. oilfield facility in Iraq was recovered just lying around near a gas station in the country's south, a government minister told Reuters news agency.

The material had been reported stolen last week at a storage facility for the U.S. oilfield services company Weatherford, according to Reuters.

The material was used in a device to test flaws in others materials used in oil and gas pipelines. Reuters describes the process as "industrial gamma radiography," and the device is owned by Istanbul-based SGS Turkey, according to the document and officials.

According to the IAEA, the material in the device could hurt or kill someone nearby if not managed properly.

"A passer-by found the radioactive device dumped in Zubair and immediately informed security forces which went with a special prevention radiation team and retrieved the device," the chief of security panel in Basra provincial council Jabbar al-Saidi told Reuters.

As the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) continues its blood-thirsty international mission, many security experts have expressed fear they are attempting to obtain radioactive material for a terrorist attack.

In October of last year, the Associated Press reported that in the backwaters of Eastern Europe, authorities working with the FBI have interrupted four attempts in the past five years by gangs with suspected Russian connections that sought to sell radioactive material to Middle Eastern extremists.

A smuggler allegedly offered a huge cache of deadly cesium - enough to contaminate several city blocks - and specifically sought a buyer from ISIS.

However, a U.S. law enforcement official told CBS News that authorities could not verify that the potential buyers were indeed from ISIS. Furthermore, the official said that the cesium that was sold was not usable in a bomb or very potent.

Criminal organizations, some with ties to the Russian KGB's successor agency, are driving a thriving black market in nuclear materials in the tiny and impoverished Eastern European country of Moldova, investigators say. The successful busts, however, were undercut by striking shortcomings: Kingpins got away, and those arrested evaded long prison sentences, sometimes quickly returning to nuclear smuggling, AP found.