The US State Department confirmed on 17 February it was aware of reports that radioactive material has gone missing from a storage facility near the southern Iraqi city of Basra but has seen no sign that Islamic State (Isis) or other militant groups have acquired it.

"We are aware of the reports that there may be...lost or missing radioactive source in Iraq. We have not seen any indication the material in question has been acquired by Daesh or any other terrorist groups in the region," spokesman Mark Toner told reporters. "Obviously we continue to take these reports very seriously, and we continue to monitor the situation."

Toner declined to comment on whether the missing material might be suitable for use in a "dirty" bomb. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that Iraq informed it of the theft of an industrial radiography device in the southern city of al-Zubair in November 2015.

The UN nuclear watchdog described the device as an Ir-192 radioactive source in a shielding container classified as a Category 2 radioactive substance, meaning that if not managed properly it could be fatal to anyone exposed to it between hours or days. The IAEA said in a statement it had offered assistance to Iraqi authorities but none had been requested so far.