- By Robert Plummer
- BBC News
Armed forces in eastern Libya said they had found around two and a half tonnes of uranium ore that had been reported missing by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Ten drums containing the ore were found near the border with Chad, the head of the forces’ media unit said.
The IAEA said it was “actively working to verify” the media reports.
The agency sounded the alarm after a visit by its inspectors earlier this week to the undisclosed site.
The area was not in government-controlled territory.
Since the ousting of former Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the country has been divided into competing political and military factions.
It is now divided between an internationally recognized interim government in the capital, Tripoli, and another in the east, led by General Khalifa Haftar.
Neither controls the south, where the uranium was mined.
Thursday’s statement came from the so-called Libyan National Army, the military force supporting the administration in eastern Libya.
General Khaled al-Mahjoub, commander of its communications division, said the uranium containers were found “just five kilometers away [three miles]” from where they had been stored in southern Libya.
Uranium is not radioactive in its current form.
The IAEA says the site has been difficult to access lately.
Inspectors had wanted to visit the location last year, but the trip had to be postponed due to fighting between rival Libyan militias.
Many foreign governments and groups have been vying for influence in Libya since NATO-backed forces toppled Colonel Gaddafi. Among them are the Russian Wagner Group and Islamic State militants.
The oil-rich country is largely lawless and has previously been described as an “arms bazaar”.
In 2013, the UN reported that weapons smuggled out of Libya were fueling conflicts in other parts of Africa and the Middle East.
However, experts told the BBC that the missing uranium could not be turned into a nuclear weapon in its current form.