Mexico: The cobalt-60 case
A truck carrying cobalt-60 was stolen, and the truck and its cargo were later found.
Here are the facts:
- Cobalt-60 is a radioactive isotope that is lethal to humans if exposed to high enough amounts of the substance.
- Cobalt-60 can be used to produce a dirty bomb that would spread radiation over a wide area.
- The truck was stolen on Monday in Tepojaco, near Mexico City, some 2764 kilometers (aprox. 1700 miles) from its point of origin in Tijuana.
- The truck was carrying old medical equipment used in cancer radiation treatment containing the cobalt 60.
- The truck wasn’t properly set up to transport the radioactive material, since it didn’t have a GPS for tracking or other necessary equipment.
- According to the Washington Post,
The robbery occurred as the cobalt-60 was being driven from a public hospital in the border town of Tijuana to a storage facility in central Mexico. The driver and his assistant worked for a licensed private company, and the lethal radioactive substance was sealed in the back.The cargo truck, equipped with a crane, was nearing its destination in the darkness early Tuesday, several hours before the storage facility opened. While waiting for daybreak at a gas station in the state of Hidalgo, north of Mexico City, the drivers were jumped by two gunmen who beat them and stole the truck
- CNN reports that
Both the driver and his assistant were taken to an empty lot where they were bound and told not to move. They heard one of the assailants use a walkie-talkie type device or phone to tell someone, “It’s done.”
- Once the theft was reported, Mexican authorities issued an alert on six states and the International Atomic Enemy Agency (IAEA) issued a warning.
- On Wednesday, the cobalt-60 was found, removed from its casing, in a rural area near Hueypoxtla about 25 miles from where the truck was stolen. This is 2735 kilometers from Tijuana.
- The thieves have not been found, but they’re expected to die within days.
And now for a little speculation (this is entirely my opinion, and again, pure speculation):
Let’s imagine that the truck hijackers try to fence the truck and its contents to the Knights Templar. Once the Templars realized that the cargo was getting the attention not only of the Mexican authorities, but also international attention, they may have decided to not hold on to it.
Especially if they could not get a good enough price from a third-party client (Hezbollah?) to make it worth their troubles.
As I said, just pure speculation.
The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed 20 incidents world-wide of theft or loss of nuclear material or radioactive material last year.