Bush is Concerned bin Laden is Seeking bomb That Spews Radioactive Material
The Bush administration
is concerned that Osama bin Laden's terrorist network may be actively
seeking a crude explosive device designed to spew radioactive material,
U.S. officials say.
fear of al Qaeda acquiring a so-called dirty bomb adds to a growing list
of worries the administration must face as it looks to thwart another
possible attack against the U.S.
The administration has based its concerns of al Qaeda pursuing a radioactive bomb on intelligence picked up during recent days that mentions such a device, according to people familiar with intelligence on the matter. They cautioned that the information was still sketchy and unconfirmed. One person familiar with the matter said that while the intelligence has raised concerns within the administration, "it hasn't set off alarm bells."
official said Attorney General John Ashcroft's warning Monday that the
U.S. could face another terrorist attack this week wasn't based on fears
of a radioactive bomb falling into the wrong hands.
have had to deal with a flood of intelligence reporting from around the
world since the September 11 attacks, including telephone intercepts and
tips from human informants. Much of it, they say, is of dubious value.
One official familiar with the intelligence on the dirty bomb said it
could take days or weeks to figure out whether or not the information
A senior U.S. official,
although unaware of any intelligence information about a dirty bomb, said
the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other federal agencies have been
preparing contingency plans in case such a bomb is detonated. "Those
discussions have been ongoing," the official said, but not because
of any hard threat information.
U.S. long has worried about terrorist acquiring loose nuclear materials
from Russia or other former Soviet States, as well as the scientific knowledge
to turn the material into a weapon.
Mr. Mahmood wasn't
involved in Pakistan's nuclear-weapons program, according to government
spokesman Major General Rashid Qureshi. Another Pakistani official insisted
the men were being questioned solely about their charitable work for the
Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar reacted yesterday to press reports suggesting that political upheaval in Pakistan could jeopardize the safety of the country's nuclear arsenal. Pakistan's "strategic assets are under foolproof custodial controls," Mr. Sattar said in a statement.