Five suspects being held in Mexico over heist of truck with cobalt-60

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A sixth suspect, a minor, was also briefly detained but has been released. The detained suspects will be held for 40 days while police continue their investigation, said a spokesman of the Mexican attorney general on Dec. 9.

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Source: www.flickr.com

All of the suspects were released from a hospital on Dec. 6 after radiation exposure was ruled out. Officials say the thieves likely didn't know about the dangerous cargo and were targeting the truck instead.

Officials on Dec. 4 said the Volkswagen truck was found close to where it was stolen in Tepojaco, near Mexico City. The container housing the radioactive materials was discovered empty, Mexican nuclear authorities said, but the dangerous items were later found about a half-mile from the open container.

"It's a very delicate operation. What's important is that the material has been located and the place is being watched to guarantee no one gets close." Juan Eibenschutz, Mexico's National Commission of Nuclear Safety and Safeguards director general

As of Dec. 9, Mexican authorities were continuing to clean up the area where the truck was found, but had already rounded up the radioactive cobalt-60.

"Cobalt-60 has figured in several serious accidents, some of them fatal… If dispersed, cobalt-60 or other radioactive source material could cause radiation poisoning locally." Mark Hibbs, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

The isotope is used in both medical equipment and in construction to detect structural flaws in metal. The material could be used to construct a so-called "dirty bomb" that disperses radioactive material via an explosive device.

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