Al-Qaeda is attempting to procure nuclear material and recruit rogue scientists in order to build a radioactive “dirty bomb,” leaked documents published in Wednesday’s Telegraph newspaper revealed.
The cables, released by the WikiLeaks website, showed that security chiefs told a Nato meeting in January 2009 that Al-Qaeda was planning a programme of “dirty radioactive improvised explosive devices (IEDs).”
The makeshift nuclear bombs, which could be used against soldiers fighting in Afghanistan, would contaminate the surrounding area for years to come.
The leaked documents also revealed that Al-Qaeda papers found in 2007 convinced security officials that “greater advances” had been made in bio-terrorism than was previously feared.
US security personnel were warned in 2008 that terrorists had “the technical competence to manufacture an explosive device beyond a mere dirty bomb.”
The Vancouver Sun mentions a few more details.
A leading atomic regulator has privately warned the world stands on the brink of a “nuclear 9/11.”
Security briefings suggest jihadi groups are also close to producing “workable and efficient” biological and chemical weapons that could kill thousands if unleashed in attacks on the West.
Thousands of classified American cables obtained by WikiLeaks and passed to the Daily Telegraph detail the international struggle to stop the spread of weapons-grade nuclear, chemical and biological material around the globe.
At a NATO meeting in 2009, security chiefs briefed member states that al-Qaida was plotting a program of “dirty radioactive IEDs”, makeshift nuclear roadside bombs that could be used against western troops in Afghanistan.
As well as causing a large explosion, a “dirty bomb” attack would contaminate the area for many years.
The briefings also state that al-Qaida documents found in Afghanistan in 2007 revealed that “greater advances” had been made in bioterrorism than was previously realized. An Indian national security adviser told American security personnel in June 2008 that terrorists had made a “manifest attempt to get fissile material” and “have the technical competence to manufacture an explosive device beyond a mere dirty bomb”.
Alerts about the smuggling of nuclear material, sent to Washington from foreign U.S. embassies, document how criminal and terrorist gangs were trafficking large amounts of highly radioactive material across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
And the Telegraph published today the details of a series of nuclear trafficking incidents occurring in recent years.
Radiation alarms installed on the border crossing between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan sounded in November 2007 as a freight train travelling from Kyrgyzstan to Iran passed through Nazarbek rail station. Customs officials halted the train to perform an examination and found that a single carriage ostensibly packed with â€œscrap metalâ€ was perilously radioactive. So high were the radiation levels that officials were instructed not to pass within five metres of the carriage, making it impossible to come close enough to open it. At the time of the last dispatch to Washington, sent in January 2008, the rail car was still unopened and remained in quarantine.
In November 2007, the US embassy in London received a telephone call from a British deep-sea salvage merchant based in Sheffield, who claimed that his business associates in the Philippines had found six uranium â€œbricksâ€ at the site of an underwater wreck. The uranium had formerly belonged the US. The merchant provided nine photographs of the bricks, which he said his associates wanted to sell for a profit. It is not clear whether diplomats agreed to the purchase.
Officials in the US embassy in Uganda were approached in February 2008 by a source who claimed that a Congolese acquaintance had asked him to help find a buyer for some highly enriched pure uranium liquid. The source, a Ugandan gold merchant, said a potential sale to a Pakistani buyer in Kenya had fallen through due to the ongoing civil unrest in the east African county. A nuclear smuggling alert sent back to Washington states that the highly radioactive material may be transported across the Congolese border in Uganda in the next few days by train, bus or taxi.
In September 2009, two employees working at the Rossing Uranium Mine in Namibia smuggled almost half a ton of the uranium concentrate powder â€“ known as â€œyellowcakeâ€ – out of the compound in plastic carrier bags. The theft was initiated by Namibian police officers who offered the two employees â€œexorbitant amounts of moneyâ€ in a bungled sting designed to determine how easily uranium could be stolen. The two employees removed the yellowcake from a broken drum and scooped it into carrier bags which they placed into a skip and smuggled out of the compound on the back of a haulage truck. The police caught the thieves when they attempted to sell 24 bags containing 170kg (370lb) of the stolen yellowcake. The remaining 250kg was not intercepted and are likely to have been sold on to smugglers.
A car carrying three Armenian men set off a radiation detector on the Georgian-Armenian border in August 2009. The driver was waved through by guards after he claimed to have been injected with radioactive isotopes during surgery. When the alarm sounded again as the car returned from Armenia, the guards decided to carry out a search. They found that the car was contaminated with radiation throughout, but no nuclear material was discovered. Whatever radioactive cargo the car may previously have been carrying had already been delivered.
A Portuguese man walked into the US embassy in Lisbon in July 2008 offering to sell six uranium plates that had been stolen from Chernobyl â€“ the site of the 1986 nuclear catastrophe in the USSR. The plates were in the possession of an ex-Russian general who was allegedly using a Portuguese judge to broker sales, he said. Officials reported that the source was a well-known â€œsmall-time hustler,â€ known as â€œThe Giraffeâ€ who was involved in â€œmany scamsâ€. The case was referred to the Portuguese police.
The Security Service of Ukraine arrested two private entrepreneurs and a prominent local politician in April 2009 as they attempted to sell a container of weapons-grade plutonium for $10â€‰million (Â£6.3â€‰million) in the western province of Ternopil Oblast. A security official told the embassy that the radioactive material could be â€œused by terrorists for making a dirty bombâ€.
During the summer of 2009, Russian customs officers reported three incidents in which cobalt-60, a highly radioactive substance, was detected in passenger trains travelling from Kazakhstan to Russia. A large number of passengers were exposed to the radiation. The authorities seized 500g of the substance.
Also, in the Telegraph:
Airport security staff are being urged to examine â€œchildrenâ€™s articlesâ€ after US intelligence concluded that terrorists were plotting to fill them with explosive chemicals.
Terrorists are attempting to manufacture nitrocellulose, a chemical which can become highly explosive if tightly packed. Details of how to prepare the chemical, which cannot be detected by airport X-ray machines, have been found in al-Qaeda training manuals.