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ISIS Militants Seize Nuclear Materials In Iraq That Could Be Used For WMDs

The insurgents reportedly took uranium compounds from Mosul University. The material could potentially be used for manufacturing weapons of mass destruction.

Posted on July 9, 2014, at 8:58 p.m. ET

AP Photo/Militant Website, File

Iraqi insurgents in a picture posted earlier this year.

Insurgents in Iraq have stolen nearly 88 pounds of uranium compounds, Reuters reported Wednesday.

The uranium had been kept at Mosul University and was intended for scientific research purposes. Insurgents from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took over the city of Mosul, Iraq, last month during their push to create an ultra-violent state.

AP Photo

The uranium could be used for "manufacturing weapons of mass destruction."

The seized uranium came to light after Mohamed Ali Alhakim, the Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations, wrote a letter warning the international community. The letter states the compounds could be used to make weapons of mass destruction and asks for international help preventing them from being used "by terrorists in Iraq or abroad."

However, a U.S. government official told Reuters the material was not enriched uranium, meaning it would be difficult to weaponize.

AP Photo/militant social media account via AP video

Iraqi militants in a photo posted in June.

Estimates vary on how much uranium is needed to make a full-fledged nuclear bomb, but it's generally not much.

The bomb dropped on Hiroshima was filled with about 141 pounds of uranium, though only a small fraction of it actually contributed to the explosion. In the past, the Discovery Channel reported that Iran could probably build a nuclear weapon with 55 pounds of uranium. Others have estimated that it would require only 35 pounds.

Weapons-grade uranium must be enriched, though, which involves increasing its isotope levels. There are several methods for enriching uranium.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.