Report: US Concerned Bin Laden could be Building Radiological Bomb
Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network may be closer than previously thought to obtaining plans or materials to make a crude radiological weapon, according to the Washington Post Tuesday.
Citing US and foreign sources, the Post said the conclusion comes in part from interrogations of captured Al Qaeda members and from evidence gathered in the last month from former Al Qaeda facilities in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon would not confirm the report. Spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said the Defense Department was "not aware of anything new or different."
"He (bin Laden) made clear his desire to have such weapons, so we need to be very attentive, very concerned just as we are concerned about the spread of nuclear weapons of mass destruction in general. But I don't know what prompted that particular story," she told journalists.
The Post reported that concern about Al Qaeda's nuclear-weapons efforts played a part in Washington's decision to place Americans on highest alert Monday, for the third time since deadly September 11 terror strikes on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.
The unnamed sources cited by Post stressed there is no conclusive evidence that bin Laden or his associates have a radiological bomb, or the ability to build one.
But the US government has asked "a few key allied governments" to help determine whether a bin Laden associate entered their countries, possibly carrying radioactive materials, the report said.
That associate is described in US intelligence reports as producing a canister allegedly containing radioactive material at a meeting with bin Laden in the last year.
Some countries have sharply increased their border vigilance as a result, the report said.
A radiological or "dirty" bomb can be made by wrapping radioactive material around conventional explosives. In addition to its explosive force, the bomb creates a zone of intense radiation that can extend for several city blocks.
US forces found a diagram of a dirty bomb in a Taliban or Al Qaeda facility in Afghanistan recently, the Post said -- WASHINGTON (AFP)
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