03:02 GMT31 March 2020
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    Malaysian police are mounting an all-out hunt for a missing radioactive device for fear its contents could be used to make a dirty bomb.

    On August 10, two industrial technicians were transporting the device from the town of Seremban to the capital of Kuala Lumpur when they lost the device, which was in the back of a pickup truck.

    "So far, the police have not received any new lead on the matter. We have not received any information as to whether the equipment has been taken out of Selangor," Selangor police chief Mazlan Mansor told reporters Thursday, Channel News Asia reported. He indicated the police had formed a special task force and were working "round the clock" to locate the device.

    The two employees transporting the lost or stolen device were initially detained on suspicion of having taken it themselves, but were later released.

    Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun said this was not the first time this has happened, either.

    "This incident is not the first, and it is understood that it also happened last year. However, nobody has come formation with information of its discovery," he told reporters August 20, Malaysian news agency Bernama reported.

    On Thursday, the country's Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said it had taken measures at its checkpoints to detect radioactive threats.

    "For example, ICA officers use equipment such as scanners and handheld detectors to screen for radiation levels on cargo, vehicles and travellers entering Singapore," an ICA spokesperson told Channel News Asia.

    The 51-pound Sentinel Delta 880 device, used in industrial radiography, contains an unknown amount of the radioactive element iridium-192, which the UN International Atomic Energy Agency warns can be used to make a dirty bomb.

    The IAEA lists iridium-192 as a Category 2 radioactive substance, meaning it can permanently injure a person who handles the radioactive material for minutes to hours, and can kill those who remain in close proximity to it for hours to days.

    "A dirty bomb contains radioactive material, but does not use that material to produce a nuclear explosion, as is the case with a nuclear weapon," according to a 2002 IAEA report on inadequate control of the world's radioactive sources. "Dirty bombs would be constructed of conventional explosives and radioactive material, the detonation of which would result in the dispersion of the radioactive material contained in the bomb. As with any explosion, people in the immediate vicinity could be killed or injured by the blast itself. The dispersed radioactive material could lead to exposure of people in the vicinity."

    However, Mansor told the press on August 21 that "at this stage, there are no signs at all to link the loss of the [radioactive] device with any terrorist activity," although it's unclear if the formation of the special task force comes from a change in that conclusion.


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