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U.N. nuclear watchdog says 2.5 tons of uranium is missing from Libyan site

At least 2.5 tons of natural uranium has gone missing from an uncontrolled site in Libya, Reuters reported Wednesday. 

The news was revealed to Reuters in a statement from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) — the United Nations' nuclear watchdog group. The IAEA told the outlet that "10 drums containing approximately 2.5 tons of natural uranium previously declared by [Libya] ... as being stored at that location were not present at the location."

While the exact site of the storage facility is unclear, the IAEA said that they had originally planned to inspect the area last year, but had to postpone that review "because of the security situation in the region." The inspection was finally carried out on Tuesday, when it was discovered that the uranium was missing. 

The IAEA will "carry out 'further activities' to determine the circumstances of the uranium's removal from the site, which it did not name, and where it is now," it told Reuters. The agency added that the potential disappearance of nuclear material "may present a radiological risk, as well as nuclear security concerns."

The IAEA confirmed that the site was not under the control of the Libyan government. The mystery emerged as Libya continues to rebuild its society following the end of a bloody civil war in 2020. While the country has attempted to enact reforms to push itself towards a democracy, Libya remains rocked by political instability. 

Reuters noted that "political control has been split between rival eastern and western factions," since 2014, with no calm even after the end of the conflict. The United Nations installed an interim Government of National Unity (GNU) in 2021, which was designed to hold Libya over until a new round of democratic elections. However, amidst warring rivalries, these elections continue to be delayed.