Iraqi doctors fear that hundreds of Iraqis are suffering from radiation poisoning after widespread looting of the country's nuclear facilities, The Washington Times reported Tuesday.
Seven nuclear facilities have been damaged or effectively destroyed by ransackers since the end of the US-led war last month. Technical documents, sensitive equipment and barrels containing radioactive material are thought to have been stolen.
According to the newspaper, many residents in villages close to the huge Tuwaitha nuclear facility, about 20 kms south of Baghdad, were exhibiting signs of radiation illness last week, including rashes, acute vomiting and severe nosebleeds.
Villagers told the US daily that Iraqi officials arrived recently with Geiger counters. One said the men had measured areas where locals had emptied the contents of stolen barrels. It should be recalled that the failure to secure the nuclear sites has fueled criticism of American forces in Iraq.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said on Monday it wants to investigate reports that Iraqis living near a looted nuclear facility are showing signs of radiation sickness and hopes soon to get permission to do so.
U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told Reuters the IAEA was aware of the reports of nuclear contamination but unable to verify them, since the United States refuses to let the agency back into Iraq. "We are aware of the reports," Fleming said. "This is all the more reason for us to get back there as soon as possible." (Albawaba.com)
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