Militant groups in Iraq have seized nuclear materials used for scientific research at a university in the country ' s north, Iraq told the United Nations in a letter appealing for help to " stave off the threat of their use by terrorists in Iraq or abroad. "

Nearly 40 kilograms(88 pounds) of uranium compounds were kept at Mosul University, Iraq ' s U. N. Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim told U. N. Secretary - General Ban Ki - moon in the July 8 letter obtained by Reuters on Wednesday.

" Terrorist groups have seized control of nuclear material at the sites that came out of the control of the state, " Alhakim wrote, adding that such materials " can be used in manufacturing weapons of mass destruction. "

" These nuclear materials, despite the limited amounts mentioned, can enable terrorist groups, with the availability of the required expertise, to use it separate or in combination with other materials in its terrorist acts, " said Alhakim.

He warned that they could also be smuggled out of Iraq too.

" The Republic of Iraq is notifying the international community of these dangerous developments and asking for help and the needed support to stave off the threat of their use by terrorists in Iraq or abroad, " Alhakim wrote.