KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysian police are hunting for an industrial device containing radioactive material that went missing from the back of a pick-up truck earlier this month, reports and an official said yesterday.
The device disappeared on Aug 10 as it was being transported outside the capital Kuala Lumpur, the New Straits Times (NST) newspaper reported.
The authorities fear the device, which contains the radioactive isotope iridium-192, could fall into the hands of militants and be used to make a dirty bomb, the paper said.
Local police chief Mazlan Mansor told Agence France-Presse an investigation had been launched, without giving further details.
Deputy Home Minister Azis Jamman confirmed the incident had taken place but insisted "everything is under control".
"There is nothing to be worried about at this moment," he was cited as saying in The Star newspaper.
The company that owned the device - which weighed 23kg and consisted of a large metal tube with a handle on top - reportedly used it to detect cracks in metal as part of inspection protocols in the energy, power and transportation sectors.
It was lost as it was being transported to the company's office from the town of Seremban in Negeri Sembilan state.
Police initially detained two technicians who had been transporting the device and reported it missing, reports said.
However, the pair, who are in their mid-30s, were later released after investigations failed to link them to its disappearance.
NST learnt that the device, called a Radioactive Dispersal Device, or RDD, has a market value of RM75,000 (S$25,100).
It quoted a source with Malaysia's Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) as saying: "We appeal to those in possession of it to contact the police or AELB. Do not open it."
The source added: "It cannot fall into the wrong hands as the consequences can be deadly."
Malaysia's police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun yesterday added to the public concern by saying that this was not the first time that a RDD had gone missing.
He said, according to The Malaysia Insight online news site, that a similar device went missing last year, and had yet to be recovered.