Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Deadly Scenarios of Destruction

"We can expect more of these cases."
"As long as the smugglers think they can make big money without getting caught, they will keep doing it."
Constantin Malic, Moldovan police officer

"What has changed is that in ISIL we now have a terrorist group that is mad enough to try it, and also has the money to appeal to a potential seller. That could make the market for this more viable."
"That said, bomb-grade material, unlike depleted uranium and so on, is not easy to get hold of. So in most of these cases I suspect you would see suppliers offering weapons grade stuff to hook a potential buyer, but without the ability to actually supply it."
Mark Galleoti, professor of global affairs, Centre for Global Affairs, New York University
Destroyed bombs and chemical vats in the Muthanna chemical plant in 2002
Destroyed bombs and chemical vats in the Muthanna chemical plant in 2002. Iraqi officials claim the building still houses dangerous chemicals, but the UN and US dispute that. Photo: Heathcliff O'Malley/The Telegraph

Moldovan authorities have been cooperating with the FBI to intercept four attempts by gangs with Russian connections seeking to sell radioactive material to extremists in the Middle East, in the past five years. A smuggler in possession of a cache of deadly cesium said to be enough to contaminate a number of city blocks, sought out a buyer from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, in the latest effort to bypass efforts to keep such materials out of the hands of jihadis.

Criminal groups suspected of having ties with the Russian secret agency that is the successor to the KGB, are involved in a lively black market in nuclear materials in Moldova, according to investigators. The stated confidence of such attempts ongoing, of Moldovan police officer Malic, involved in investigating all four cases that were apprehended, expresses the reality that those behind the deals are allowed to go free and often with the materials in question.

Moldovan police and judicial authorities are well aware just how dangerous a scenario the black market in nuclear products represents. And with the breakdown in cooperation that has resulted from Russia's expeditions into restoring Soviet hegemony between it and the West, particularly the United States, detecting where, when and whether smugglers are discovering new ways to move the vast store of radioactive materials remaining in Russia remains a conundrum.

The current anti-smuggling strategy has been compromised with a lack of communication and with it cooperation between the radioactive materials' source and the intelligence agencies most concerned to keep it from the hands of terrorists. Wiretaps, videotaped arrests, photographs of bomb-grade material along with allied documents and interviews give ample evidence that such trade is on the move and presents a danger to the world.

While authorities isolate suspects in the stages of a deal, those responsible for directing the process are inexplicably given the opportunity to escape, and the nuclear contraband goes with them. Moldovan investigators aren't certain as an example, whether the prime suspects have fled with the nuclear materials in question. Nor do they have certain knowledge whether or not any deals of deadly nuclear material have actually been concluded.
"In the age of the Islamic State, it's especially terrifying to have real smugglers of nuclear bomb materials apparently making connections with real buyers."
Matthew Bunn, Harvard professor, author of study on security of Russian nuclear arsenal
Photo published for AP INVESTIGATION: Nuclear black market seeks IS extremists

AP INVESTIGATION: Nuclear black market seeks IS extremists

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