Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Al Qaida's Dream...

G2 Bulletin:
Al-Qaida tours nuke site:
Open facility called 'dream target for terrorists'
Publishing Date: 19.09.06 13:49
By Gordon Thomas
Two al-Qaida operatives visited the world's most accessible nuclear facility, where more than two tons of highly enriched uranium and weapons-grade plutonium are store behind a rusty bard-wire fence protected by a handful of guards with light weapons, MI6 agents have learned. An intelligence report described the facility as "the dream target for terrorists."
The view is shared by Michael Durst, a senior manager at the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency. "The site is top of our global priority list of unsecured uranium sources," said Durst. "At present it is easily accessible to an organized attack."
Once a jewel in the former Soviet arsenal, the National Science Institute at Vinca, 10 miles south of the Serbian capital, Belgrade, was closed in 1984 and its reactor switched off. Since then the 48-acre site has steadily fallen into decay.
Last week, Durst said: "Vinca is unique in the amount of uranium stored within the facility, over two tons. About 30 percent of this is now leaking. The remaining caretaker staff at the institute are doing their best to deal with the situation. But they are poorly paid and our concern is that some employees could be tempted to sell some of the material themselves or allow terrorists access to it. It would have to be a well-organised theft to transport the fissionable material and the risks for those involved would be high. But if someone was ready to take the risk with their lives, it could be done."
MI6 agents, who tracked the two al-Qaida terrorists that visited the Vinca site, have established they were accompanied by the one organization with the expertise to carry out such a theft. It is run by Semyon Yukovich Mogilevich, head of the Rising Sun, eastern Europe's major criminal family. Mogilevich is described by the Home Office "as one of the most dangerous criminals in the world."
His organization is linked to money-laundering and trafficking in humans, weapons and drugs. The United States and several other countries have issued arrest warrants for him.
Aleksander Popovic, the Serbian government minister of science, said last week: "It must be a priority to stop the nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists."
Under international treaties, all such materials must be returned to the country of origin - in Vinca's case to the former Soviet Union. But Moscow cannot fund the cost of doing so - estimated to be nearly $100 million.
Last week the IAEA wrote to other countries, including the United States and Britain, asking for funds to remove the deadly materials.
"It could take a little while to get agreement on the level of help," said Obrad Sotic, a former operations manager at the site. "Meantime for terrorists ready to risk exposure to radiation, it would not be a problem to steal enough material to make 'dirty' bombs."
Durst confirmed that a substantial portion of the nuclear material is stored in a pool inside the disused reactor. "There are other sites in Bulgaria and Romania," he said. "But the accessibility of the material at Vinca makes it the most dangerous site in the world."
Gordon Thomas, a regular G2B contributor, is author of "Gideon's Spies: The Secret History of the Mossad." He specializes in international intelligence matters.


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