Islamic State Has A ‘Dirty Bomb’ Says U.K. Jihadi — Amid Claims Of 40kg (88lbs.) Of Stolen Uranium
Jennifer Smith, writing in the November 30, 2014 edition of London’s, TheDailyMailOnline, says that “the Islamic State claims to have constructed a ‘dirty bomb’ — after stealing 40kg (88lbs.) of uranium from an Iraqi university,.” some four months after the material was reported missing. Ms. Smith adds that “militants boasted of [having] the device on social media, with one [militant] even commenting on the destruction such a bomb would wreak in London. ” On a worrisome note, Ms. Smith writes that “among the extremists making online threats to the West is British explosives expert Hamayun Tariq, who fled his home in Dudley, West Midlands, for the Middle East in 2012. Using the Muslim name, Muslim-al-Britani, he posted on Twitter: ‘O by the way, the Islamic State does have a dirty bomb. We found some radioactive material at Mosul University. We’ll find out what ‘dirty bombs’ are; and, what they do. We’ll also discuss what might happen if one actually went off in a public area. This sort of bomb would be terribly destructive if it went off in London becuz (sic), it would be more of a disruptive weapon,’ before having his Twitter account suspended, Ms. Smith wrote. “IS has confirmed that we have acquired a dirty bomb from radioactive material from Mosul Uni! Mashallah #IS’.
Ms. Smith notes that “40kg of uranium, stored for scientific research went missing from Mosul University in northern Iraq. In a letter to the United Nations, Iraq’s U.N. Ambassador, Mohamed Ali Alhakim told Ban Ki-Moon, “Terrorist groups have seized nuclear material at the sites that came out of the control of the state,” adding — “such materials can be used in manufacturing weapons of mass destruction. These nuclear materials, despite the limited amounts mentioned, can enable terrorist groups — with the availability of the required expertise — to use it separate, or in combination with other materials in terrorist acts.”
130 Cases Of Missing, Or Unauthorized Use Of Nuclear/Radioactive Material Reported To The IAEA In 2013
The above case is worrisome; but, unfortunately not all that surprising. Reuters News Agency’s Fredrik Dahl wrote in the publication’s March 21, 2014 edition, that there were “about 140 cases of missing, or unauthorized use of nuclear, or radioactive material were reported to the U.N. [IAEA] — highlighting the challenges facing world leaders. “Any loss or theft of highly enriched uranium, plutonium, or different types of radioactive sources is potentially serious — as al Qaeda-militants could try to use them to make a crude nuclear device, or so-called ‘dirty bomb,’ the publication wrote.
“In a dirty bomb,’ conventional explosives are used to disperse radiation from a radioactive source, which can be found in hospitals, factories, or other places [like universities] that may not be very well protected.”
Dirty Bombs Revisited – Combatting The Hype
Scott Stweart, writing on the national security website STRATFOR, April 22, 2010, discussed the hype surrounding the threat of the use of a ‘dirty bomb’ by terrorist groups or others. M. Stweart; and, argued “in spite of the fact that dirty bombs have been widely discussed in the press for many years now — much misinformation and disinformation continues to circulate regarding dirty bombs. This misinformation,” he writes, ‘stems from long-held misconceptions and ignorance, while the disinformation comes from scaremongers hyping the threat for financial, or political reasons. Frankly,” he says, “many people have made a lot of money by promoting fear since 9/11.” I think we could add Climate Change and cyber to that mix; but, that is a conversation for another day.
Exaggerated headlines like a dirty bomb would cause hundreds, if not thousands of deaths, “is simply not true,” Mr. Stewart contends. “Instead,” he writes, “a number of radiological accidents have demonstrated that a dirty bomb will not cause this type of death toll. Indeed, the panic generated by a dirty bomb could very well result in more immediate deaths — than the detonation of the device itself. Unless large amounts of a very strong, radioactive material are used, the effects [and deaths] from such an exposure will be limited,” Mr. Stweart wrote. “To cause adverse effects, radiation exposure must occur in either a very high dose over a short period of time, or in smaller doses — over a sustained, longer period of time.”
Bob Kelly, who was a U.N. Nuclear Weapons Inspector in Iraq in the 1990’s told NBC some months ago that “the uranium [stolen from Mosul University] probably posed more danger as a toxin — like lead — than as radioactive material. Putting it in a dirty bomb is a pretty silly idea,” he said. “If you spread uranium over a large area, it’s just going to disappear.” Mr. Kelly did tell NBC News that he was surprised the university was allowed to keep the uranium, which he described as a “big amount,” after the war. The IAEA added that it believed whatever nuclear material had fallen under ISIS control — was “low-grade,” and did not pose a threat. Other sources told the network that the uranium was not enriched.
Historical Precedents; Fighting Panic
“The world has not yet witnessed a successful dirty bomb by a terrorist or militant group,” Mr. Stweart wrote in 2010; and, that statement still holds true today. However, he added, “based on the ease of manufacture; and, historical interest by militants in dirty bombs — it is only a matter of time before militants successfully employ one. And, since it is not likely to produce mass casualties, a dirty bomb attack would likely be directed against a highly symbolic target — such as one representing an economy [Wall Street], or, government [Capital Hill] — and, designed to cause the maximum amount of disruption at the target site.
So, while this particular theft of uranium and the boast by the Islamic State of the group’s ‘acquisition’ of this material — it would seem that this particular threat is more a headline story for ThedDilyMailOnline, than anything else.
But clearly, acquiring and detonating a weapon of mass destruction in the U.S. homeland is still an ultimate goal of the Islamic State and/or, al Qaeda — and, we have to remain ever vigilant against this threat; and, continue to prosecute the war against them. V/R, RCP