Tags: Bin | Laden | Seeking | Nuclear

Bin Laden Seeking to Go Nuclear

Wednesday, 19 September 2001 12:00 AM

"Bin Laden has been trying to get his hands on enriched uranium for seven or eight years," R. James Woolsey, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, told Newsday.

In an exclusive expose of the notorious terrorist mastermind's attempts to acquire material that would enable him to build a nuclear bomb, Newsday correspondent Earl Lane and associate Knut Royce of the Center For Public Integrity reported that intelligence experts "had seen evidence" of bin Laden's activities in this area.

While noting that there is no evidence that bin Laden succeeded in locating the deadly material needed to build a bomb, Newsday reported that intelligence sources revealed that his operatives have made several attempts to acquire the needed components.

"We've seen no confirmed or reliable reports of significant quantities [of nuclear materials] going to bin Laden," Jon Wolfsthal of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told Newsday. According to the Long Island, New York newspaper, testimony was presented during a trial in New York earlier this year by a defector from bin Laden's terrorist organization who admitted he had acted as a go-between in a 1993 effort to acquire a cylinder containing uranium (described by several sources as enriched uranium-235.)

The defector, Jamal Ahmed al Fadl, testified that he was under orders from one of bin Laden's lieutenants to buy the uranium from former Sudanese military officer Salah Abdel Mobruk for $1.5 million. Fadl, however said he was removed from the negotiations and never learned whether the deal went through, according to Newsday.

Russian intelligence sources also confirmed bin Laden's interest in nuclear materials, Newsday reported.

"A former Russian intelligence official, in a memorandum to a U.S. counterpart provided to Newsday, said Russian security forces halted an attempt in 1998 to sell an unspecified amount of Soviet-origin, bomb-grade uranium to a Pakistani company controlled by bin Laden.

"A U.S. intelligence source declined to comment on the incident or to say whether American intelligence agencies have any verification. "There is evidence that bin Laden has been shopping around" for nuclear materials, as well as components for chemical and biological weapons," the source told Lane and Royce, .

Past failures to obtain the nuclear materials haven't deterred bin Laden's quest, experts warn. A U.S. intelligence official told Newsday that there are concerns that bin Laden is looking for radioactive material to make a so-called "dirty bomb," rather than using the material to build an atomic weapon. In that kind of weapon, the radioactive material would be dispersed in a way that would seriously contaminate a small area.

While non-government experts warn that while bin Laden may have had little success in acquiring nuclear materials, they add it is impossible to say for sure that he hasn't.

"Osama bin Laden's agents seem to be operating by stealth," according to David Albright of the nonprofit Institute for Science and International Security. Albright asked: "Will they succeed? We'll never know ... The more serious offers are the ones you are not going to hear about. They are going to try to find insiders who have more direct access to the materials."

Added Matthew Bunn, a Harvard University nuclear experts, last week's terrorist attacks, widely attributed to bin Laden, suggest his network is very well organized and capable of pursuing nuclear materials.

"These events call for dramatically increased political leadership and funding for efforts to secure nuclear materials worldwide," Bunn told Newsday, noting that the Bush administration had proposed cutting the funding for a program to help safeguard nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union. He said the Bush budget for 2002 would cut funding for the program from $170 million to $140 million, although there have been efforts in Congress to restore some of the money.

The administration, however, may have good reasons for reducing that funding. According to NewsMax.com's Col. Stanislav Lunev much of the money provided to Russia for the purpose of safeguarding nuclear materials has been used either to build new weapons, or, in some cases, simply stolen by corrupt Moscow officials.

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Bin Laden has been trying to get his hands on enriched uranium for seven or eight years, R. James Woolsey, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, told Newsday. In an exclusive expose of the notorious terrorist mastermind's attempts to acquire material that...
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2001-00-19
Wednesday, 19 September 2001 12:00 AM
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