Turkey: Smugglers Caught With Cesium, Gems On Georgian Border

Border guards at the Sarpi checkpoint between Turkey and Georgia Friday detained two Georgian nationals for allegedly carrying 1.2 kg of cesium, a highly radioactive substance that can be used to build "dirty bombs." 

Cesium - Image from Wikimedia by Dnn87The suspects were also carrying a mercury-like substance, and nine gemstones in their luggage. The pair were caught after setting off the alarm on an x-ray body scanner.

Turkish press reports that the confiscated materials have a market value of roughly US$ 2.5 million. Dirty bombs work by disseminating radioactive material like shrapnel over a wide area.

Cesium can also used for scientific, industrial, and medical purposes. The seized chemicals were delivered to the Turkish Atomic Energy Authority.

A third suspect - a 60-year-old Turkish national - was later detained for his involvement.

According to the Hurriyet account, smuggling of radioactive material through the Black Sea states has been an ongoing problem since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Between 1991 and 2012, 630 such incidents were reported, according to the EU Non-Proliferation Consortium. Turkey posts the third highest number of recorded incidents, after Russia and Ukraine, the report says.

On Monday, four other people were stopped at the same checkpoint for smuggling 239 watches, sealed in plastic bags and taped to assorted body parts.

As one press outlet reports, the "suspects' walking and enlarged shape of their bodies was what gave them away".