And Their Suitcase Bombs

Gordon Thomas

Scientists at the European Trans-Uranium Institute at Karlsruhe are tracking the possibility that Osama bin-Laden has obtained further nuclear material – following the arrest in Paris of three of his associates. They had in their possession a quantity of Uranium-235 capable of creating a “suitcase-type nuclear bomb”.

France’s Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) believe the material found in Paris came from the former Soviet Union – possibly from a weapons lab at Chelyanbinsk-70 in the Ural Mountains. Both French and Britain’s MI6 intelligence service believe that the material in Paris was transported by associates of Russia’s top Mafiya boss, Semyon Yukovich Mogilevich.

They are back-tracking the route they believe the nuclear material was transported: out of the Ukraine into Poland, across Germany and on to Paris. CIA and BND agents have joined in the hunt.

France’s internal security service, DST, who arrested the trio found in the Paris apartment of one man, Raymond Loeb, found documents written in Russian confirming that the uranium was of high-grade quality.

Air tickets to Kazakstan – one of the gateways from the West into Afghanistan – were also found.

Loeb’s partners are Serge Salfati and Yves Ekwella. All were travelling on Cameroon passports.
DST have established that the trio have connections to Mogilevich.

British intelligence sources say that the Mafiya boss left his home – a fortified palace in Budapest – last week. His present whereabouts are unknown.

The arrest of the trio in Paris was made a month ago. But only in the last few days have their links with bin-Laden become known.
Since then they have been close-questioned about other nuclear material that has been supplied to bin-Laden.
Mossad has also joined in the hunt from its European headquarters in Amsterdam.

The urgency of the search was underlined by former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense, Graham Allison, now the director of Harvard’s Center for Science and International Affairs. “A terrorist group could ship enough nuclear material in packets that could be mailed through the postal service or sent by a courier company,” he said.

The type of fissionable material found in Paris was of 85% enriched uranium. It weighed-out at five grams.

A high-ranking Mossad source said that “by itself it would be too small to make a major explosion. But five grams is precisely the size that makes it almost impossible to detect. The urgent need is to discover just how many other five-gram packets are around or have made their way into bin-Laden’s hands.”

German and French intelligence services say that given bin-Laden almost certainly does not have scientists capable of building him a bomb – Saddam Hussein does.

“Iraq has a large number of former Soviet Union nuclear scientists who, after the end of the Cold War, were enticed by huge salaries to work in Iraq’s secret nuclear-bomb building programme.”

Since the attack on America, the possibility that bin-Laden is poised to deliver a nuclear strike has, in the words of former Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky, “gone from possible to very probable.”

The view is reinforced by Dr David Kay, a former head of the United Nations inspection team in Iraq after the Gulf War.
He believes that bin-Laden could launch a “suitcase-type bomb” that could even surpass the destruction at the Twin Towers.
Bin-Laden has made previous attempts to obtain nuclear materials – according to the FBI’s “supergrass” Jamal al-Fadl. Once a close associate of bin-Laden, al-Fadl made a deal with the FBI that, in return for his life, he would assist them in penetrating bin-Laden’s organisation, Al-Qaeda.

He has provided the FBI with hard evidence that he had personally been ordered to offer £1 million for a half-kilo of uranium.
Al-Fadl claims that the material came from a nuclear refining plant outside Pretoria, South Africa.

His claims formed part of an affidavit for the U.S. Justice Department to extradite two bin-Laden suspects from Britain.
And Israeli security sources said this week that they had “credible knowledge” that bin-Laden is planning to buy a tactical “suitcase size” nuclear bomb from Kazakstan, one of the Islamic republics that was once part of the Soviet Union. It was there that Moscow stockpiled a large part of its nuclear arsenal.

Osama bin-Laden himself has said: “We don’t consider it a crime if we try to obtain nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.”
It is the possibility that he will use the latter that concerns MI5.