The U.S. government is offering to help Mexican authorities locate and recover hazardous radioactive materials that were stolen on Monday from a southern municipality in Mexico, a State Department official confirmed on Friday.
Mexican thieves are reported to have stolen extremely hazardous iridium-192 from a municipality in southern Mexico, leading the country’s government to issue several alerts and warnings to citizens about the theft.
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The radioactive material poses a health hazard and could poison anyone exposed to the substance.
Mexican authorities quickly contacted the United States following the theft, a State Department official told the Washington Free Beacon on Friday.
"Mexican authorities informed us on April 16 that a container with iridium-192 used for portable industrial x-ray analyses was stolen from a truck in Tabasco State," the official said.
The United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are now "in contact with Mexican officials about the incident," the official said. "We stand ready to provide support if requested by the Mexican government."
The materials are reported to be "very hazardous to health," according to Spanish language reports translated by the CIA’s Open Source Center.
The theft prompted the Mexican government to issue several warning alerts throughout at least five Southern municipalities.
"The equipment was taken from a red Chevrolet truck with plates TC7228-E in Cardenas Municipality, Tabasco, which borders the municipalities of Comalcalco, Cunduacan, and Huimanguillo in Tabasco, and Reforma in Chiapas," according to a government warning alert reported on Thursday in Spanish by La Jornado Online.
Authorities have not yet been able to locate the truck or the radioactive materials, which are used for industrial x-ray equipment.
Mexico’s Civil Protection agency "warned that if the radioactive source is not handled with [the correct] technical safety conditions or without physical safety protections, it could cause permanent injuries to the person manipulating or maintaining contact with it for a brief (minutes to hours) period of time," according to the report.
The materials could "prove fatal to be near to this amount of unshielded radioactive material for a period of hours to days," the warning added.
While the iridium could not be used to endanger citizens on a wide scale, anyone in the near vicinity to the material could be poisoned. The materials were closed in a protective case at the time they were stolen.
Sources apprised of the incident have speculated that the thieves were seeking to steal the car and did not realize that they also were taking the dangerous radioactive material.
In recent days, reports have claimed that terror groups such as the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, are gaining ground in Mexico in a bid to infiltrate America’s southern border. The State Department has called these reports "unfounded."
"Episodes like this reinforce both what a national security threat it is to have an unsecured border and how the nuclear threat isn't just from sophisticated bombs: amateur dirty bombs can cause chaos too," said Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser and terrorism expert. "The White House has dropped the ball on both counts. It's like we're back in pre-9/11 era only without the innocent ignorance of the perils of our national security policy incompetence."