View Full Version : Al Qaida No. 2: We Have Briefcase Nukes

03-21-2004, 09:08 PM
Al-Qaida No. 2: We Have Briefcase Nukes

Mar 21, 4:24 PM (ET)

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) - Osama bin Laden's terror network claims to have bought ready-made nuclear weapons on the black market in central Asia, the biographer of al-Qaida's No. 2 leader was quoted as telling an Australian television station.

In an interview scheduled to be televised on Monday, Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir said Ayman al-Zawahri claimed that "smart briefcase bombs" were available on the black market. It was not clear when the interview between Mir and al-Zawahri took place.

U.S. intelligence agencies have long believed that al-Qaida attempted to acquire a nuclear device on the black market, but say there is no evidence it was successful.

In the interview with Australian Broadcasting Corp. television, parts of which were released Sunday, Mir recalled telling al-Zawahri it was difficult to believe that al-Qaida had nuclear weapons when the terror network didn't have the equipment to maintain or use them.

"Dr Ayman al-Zawahri laughed and he said 'Mr. Mir, if you have $30 million, go to the black market in central Asia, contact any disgruntled Soviet scientist, and a lot of ... smart briefcase bombs are available,'" Mir said in the interview.

"They have contacted us, we sent our people to Moscow, to Tashkent, to other central Asian states and they negotiated, and we purchased some suitcase bombs," Mir quoted al-Zawahri as saying.

Al-Qaida has never hidden its interest in acquiring nuclear weapons.

The U.S. federal indictment of bin Laden charges that as far back as 1992 he "and others known and unknown, made efforts to obtain the components of nuclear weapons."

Bin Laden, in a November 2001 interview with a Pakistani journalist, boasted having hidden such components "as a deterrent." And in 1998, a Russian nuclear weapons design expert was investigated for allegedly working with bin Laden's Taliban allies.

It was revealed last month that Pakistan's top nuclear scientist had sold sensitive equipment and nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea, fueling fears the information could have also fallen into the hands of terrorists.

Earlier, Mir told Australian media that al-Zawahri also claimed to have visited Australia to recruit militants and collect funds.

"In those days, in early 1996, he was on a mission to organize his network all over the world," Mir was quoted as saying. "He told me he stopped for a while in Darwin (in northern Australia), he was ... looking for help and collecting funds."

Australia's Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said the government could not rule out the possibility that al-Zawahri visited Australia in the 1990s under a different name.

"Under his own name or any known alias he hasn't traveled to Australia," Ruddock told reporters Saturday. "That doesn't mean to say that he may not have come under some other false documentation, or some other alias that's not known to us."

Mir describe al-Zawahri as "the real brain behind Osama bin Laden."

"He is the real strategist, Osama bin Laden is only a front man," Mir was quoted as saying during the interview. "I think he is more dangerous than bin Laden."

Al-Zawahri - an Egyptian surgeon - is believed to be hiding in the rugged region around the Pakistan-Afghan border where U.S. and Pakistani troops are conducting a major operation against Taliban and al-Qaida forces.

He is said to have played a leading role in orchestrating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.


lucky wilbury
03-21-2004, 11:13 PM
this claim comes out literally every six months. the only thing that they have that might resemble a nuke is bo.

lucky wilbury
03-25-2004, 02:12 AM

Al Qaeda bluffing about having suitcase nukes, experts say
Russians claim terrorists couldn't have bought them

Anna Badkhen, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Moscow -- Ayman al-Zawahri, al Qaeda's No. 2 man, has bragged that the terrorist group bought suitcase nuclear bombs from former Soviet nuclear scientists in Moscow and Central Asia, but experts on Russia's nuclear program dismiss the statements, saying Osama bin Laden's deputy is bluffing.

Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir, who is writing bin Laden's biography, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. last week that al-Zawahri made the boast during a 2001 interview when he was asked whether the terror network really had nuclear weapons.

Al-Zawahri, the Egyptian doctor believed to be a mastermind of the Sept. 11, attacks, laughed and said: "If you have $30 million, go to the black market in central Asia, contact any disgruntled Soviet scientist and a lot of . .. dozens of smart briefcase bombs are available," Mir reported. "They have contacted us, we sent our people to Moscow, to Tashkent (the capital of Uzbekistan), to other Central Asian states, and they negotiated, and we purchased some suitcase bombs.''

The idea of al Qaeda's acquiring suitcase nuclear bombs -- compact, easily portable bombs shaped like briefcases or backpacks that can be detonated by timers -- is the sum of all fears for Washington.

A suitcase nuclear bomb detonated in the center of a metropolitan area can instantly kill tens of thousands of people and expose hundreds of thousands more to levels of radiation that would kill them within 24 months; millions of others would suffer from radiation poisoning.

But Russian nuclear officials and experts on the Russian and post-Soviet nuclear programs adamantly deny that al Qaeda or any other terrorist group could have bought Soviet-made suitcase nukes, which were built in the 1960s for use against NATO and U.S. targets by special Soviet military intelligence agents.

"(Al-Zawahri) is bluffing," an unnamed official at the Russian Federal Nuclear Energy Agency told the official Ria-Novosti news agency Monday. "It is practically impossible not only to buy nuclear weapons but even their components in Russia."

U.S. security experts have also said it is unlikely that bin Laden is close to acquiring nuclear weapons technology, although he clearly wants it. A U.S. federal indictment handed down in 1998 charges that beginning in 1993 al Qaeda members "made efforts to procure enriched uranium for the purpose of developing nuclear weapons.''

Maxim Shingarkin, a former major in the Russian military's secretive 12th Department, which is in charge of strategic weapons, said suitcase nuclear bombs, if they are still in Russia's arsenal, were too difficult to maintain and had too short a lifespan to make them feasible as terrorist weapons. He said Russia only had built about 100 suitcase bombs and had not produced any new ones since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union.

Shingarkin said Russian suitcase nukes consisted of a bag measuring about 24 by 16 by 8 inches fitted with three coffee can-size aluminum canisters filled with plutonium or uranium. A 6-inch-long detonator is connected to the canisters, and a battery line keeps it powered during storage.

He said the suitcase nukes have a lifespan of only one to three years because some of the materials, such as the battery and the conventional explosives that produce the charge that sets off the nuclear reaction, deteriorate over time and must be replaced. Otherwise, he said, they become radioactive scrap metal.

Shingarkin said the Soviet Union kept some of the bombs near Moscow, where it trained about 30 to 50 military spies to transport and detonate them abroad. More deadly portable devices were kept in the Baltic republics and, possibly, Ukraine, he said -- close to the Soviet borders with its NATO neighbors. There were never any suitcase nukes in Uzbekistan or in any other Central Asian republic, Shingarkin said, because the Soviet Union did not perceive any acute threat from its southern flank.

He said the Soviet Union had taken its suitcase nukes back from the Baltics to Moscow in the 1980s. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, some portable nuclear bombs may have remained in Ukraine, but "three years after they got there, they wouldn't be nuclear bombs anymore," he said.

Charles Digges, an expert on Russia's nuclear program with the Bellona environmental group in Norway who is usually critical of the claims of Russian nuclear officials, agreed, saying "these things have been more or less accounted for."

However, Digges cautioned that al Qaeda might have access to non-fissile radioactive material that could allow it to build so-called dirty bombs -- devices that combine conventional explosives and radioactive material. Although they would not produce a nuclear reaction, they would still create an enormous blast and long-lasting, but less widespread, radiation.

Analysts say large quantities of such radioactive material -- such as cobalt 60, iodine 131 and strontium 90 -- have disappeared from the former Soviet Union.

Digges said al-Zawahri may have mistakenly called dirty bombs suitcase bombs in his interview with Mir.

"Either they have some sort of a dirty nuke the size of a steamer trunk in which they put a bunch of uranium and TNT," he said, "or they're simply lying."