Al-Qaeda nearing “workable and efficient" dirty bomb capacity
US cables published by Wikileaks and assessments by various national governments indicate that global jihadist movements such as Al-Qaeda may soon posses a deployable CBRN attack capacity. The report comes after an escalation in the number of “high risk” security breaches in central Asia involving nuclear material. It is believed that a “dirty bomb”, comprised of rudimentary explosives and radiological material, could cause large scale death and an environmental incident.
The news, published by the London Telegraph, cites US diplomatic cables and government reports. According to one source, NATO experts recently told White House officials that they have uncovered attempts by the Taliban to develop "dirty radioactive IEDS" for use in Afghanistan. Other reports indicate that high profile Western targets in the US and Europe could be targeted by a dirty bomb, including financial centres and tourist locations. Whilst previous intelligence had decided that groups such as Al-Qaeda lacked the technical skills to engineer such devices, the new reports indicate that sympathetic scientists from Pakistan and elsewhere were now believed to have formed “dirty bomb factories” in undisclosed locations.
These attempts are worrying for intelligence officials, who have noted a growing number of security breaches involving radioactive material. The fear, as expressed in a leaked British diplomatic cable, is that workers harvesting nuclear fuel from legitimate sources "could gradually smuggle enough material out to make a weapon". The recent arrest of two miners at a Namibian uranium mine for suspected smuggling is one such example. Central African warlords and unstable border regions on the edges of former Soviet Union states in central Asia were also cited as potential sources of nuclear material for the black market, with numerous breaches in the last three years reported.
Additional concern has been expressed by NATO sources about biological weapons. Though technically far more difficult to manufacture, large stockpiles of anthrax and infectious diseases in Pakistan are believed to be a target for exploitation by extremist groups.