A Libyan armed group claims to have found the barrels of natural uranium that went missing in southern Libya.
A spokesperson for the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA), Khaled Al Mahjoub, said on Facebook that the barrels were found 5km from a warehouse where they were being stored.
A video posted by Mahjoub showed a man in a hazmat suit vocally counting 18 blue barrels said to contain the missing natural uranium. The IAEA had said that “10 barrels” were missing from the warehouse.
A total of 2.5 tons of natural uranium in the form of uranium ore concentrate were reported missing by the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] this week, after inspectors conducted verification activities on Tuesday.
“We are aware of media reports that the materials have been found, the Agency is actively working to verify them,” the IAEA said Thursday. CNN contacted the IAEA to confirm whether the barrels found by the LNA are the same as those reported missing by the UN nuclear watchdog.
The barrels were stored in a guarded warehouse in southern Libya, but guards were stationed further away due to concerns about radioactivity, Mahjoub said in a Facebook post.
A ton-sized hole was found cut open on the side of the storage warehouse, Mahjoub added.
Mahjoub claimed that a Chadian group may have been responsible for stealing the barrels, thinking they were weapons, but left the barrels after being confused about what was inside. The LNA has provided no evidence to support that claim.
The group also said troops were tasked with guarding the warehouse after an IAEA team visited the warehouse in 2020 and marked the barrels of uranium.
The IAEA had said the missing uranium “posed little radiological hazard, but it requires safe handling”.
“The loss of knowledge about the current location of nuclear material may pose a radiological risk, as well as nuclear safety concerns,” the IAEA said ahead of the LNA statement.
Libya has seen little peace or stability since the NATO-backed uprising against Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. The country split in 2014 between warring factions to the east and west.