Concerned that Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network may be making progress in obtaining nuclear weapons, Washington has been placing sophisticated radiation sensors at United States border positions and central sites around Washington, the Washington Post reported on Sunday.
The Bush administration also has placed the elite U.S. commando unit Delta Force on a new standby alert to seize any nuclear materials that the sensors might detect. The Delta Force has been instructed of killing or disabling anyone with a suspected nuclear device and turning the bomb over to scientists to be disarmed, the Post added.
The sensors have been deployed since November late last year, at U.S. borders, several overseas facilities and choke points around Washington, the newspaper said, citing U.S. government policymakers.
The sensors also have been used at designated "national-security special events" such as the Utah Olympics. Allied countries, including Saudi Arabia, have rushed new detectors to their borders after U.S. intelligence warnings, the American newspaper added.
Up until now, the devices were carried only by nuclear search teams dispatched when extortionists claim to have radioactive materials, the Post reported.
It added that U.S. President George W. Bush has ordered his national security team to give nuclear terrorism priority over any other threat to the United States after an October briefing by CIA Director George Tenet on al Qaeda's nuclear aspirations.
"Clearly ... the sense of urgency has gone up," the newspaper quoted a senior policymaker on nuclear, biological and chemical weapons terrorism as saying.
Another official was quoted as saying, "The more you gather information, the more our concerns increased about al Qaeda's focus on weapons of mass destruction of all kinds."
The consensus U.S. government viewpoint is that suspected terror mastermind Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network likely has acquired the lower-level radionuclides strontium 90 and cesium 137, which cannot produce a nuclear detonation but are radioactive contaminants. Conventional explosives could scatter them in what is known as a radiological dispersion device, better known as a "dirty bomb."
The number of deaths that might follow is hard to assess, however would probably be modest but it could be a potent weapon of terror, the paper added. (Albawaba.com)
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