M A I N   N E W S

Special to the tribune
Qaida ‘dirty bomb’ worries UK
Shyam Bhatia in London

LIKE their US counterparts, British security chiefs are trapped in the uncertainty of not knowing how and when Osama bin Laden loyalists will strike back in retaliation for the death of their leader.

Their greatest unspoken fear is that Al-Qaida operatives have somehow managed to get hold of a “dirty bomb”, another word for a radiological device that is just short of a nuclear bomb but at least as scary in its implications.

This fear of a “dirty bomb” was underscored on Monday when the police announced that five men arrested under the anti-terrorism Act were picked up from close to the UK’s Sellafield nuclear site where scientists manufacture nuclear fuel and reprocess nuclear waste.

The Sellafield nuclear site has long been thought of as a potential target for terrorist groups and is accordingly heavily protected by both private security outfits, as well as armed members of the Civil-Nuclear Constabulary Force.

The police has so far released few details beyond saying that the men are all from the London area and in their 20s.

It was in 2001 that US investigators discovered evidence of Osama bin Laden’s interest in nuclear weapons. It turned out that the Al-Qaida had been in direct contact with two leading Pakistani nuclear scientists, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Abdul Majid.

Mahmood, who operated out of Kabul, was also the patron-founder of a small charity, Ummah Tameer e-Nau, “to spread modern achievements of science and technology among Muslims”, that American investigators thought could be a front for the Al-Qaida. Both men were arrested, interrogated and then released.

Two other Pakistani scientists with Al-Qaida links are thought to have been whisked out of the country and sent, in the first instance, to Myanmar.

The nuclear scare continued to grow in 2003 when an Afghan arms dealer arrested by the Americans was found to be carrying a memorandum that referred to “two or three cans of uranium” that were “intended for the production of an atom bomb”.

Another arms dealer, this time a Yemeni, was also picked up by Americans, after trying to negotiate £300,000 deal for uranium he said he had in his possession.

More recently, according to WikiLeaks, a former operations chief of the Al-Qaida, has been cited as declaring that the outfit might possibly have a nuclear bomb. Abu Faraj Al Libi, who is held in Guantanamo Bay, is also the alleged source of claims that a nuclear device would be set off in Europe if Osama bin Laden was arrested or killed.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron endorsed concerns that Al-Qaida reprisals could be on the cards. Commenting on Osama’s death, he said, “It does not mark the end of the threat we face from extremist terrorism. Indeed, we will have to be particularly vigilant in the weeks ahead.” Cameron has placed the UK on “high alert”, one step short of the “critical” level that only comes into play when there is specific intelligence of a forthcoming alert.

High-value targets identified by his security experts include the Houses of Parliament, as well as other popular tourist and business destinations in London.

The consensus among the experts is that any immediate attack is more likely to be carried out by a solitary, so-called “lone wolf” operative, such as the Bangladeshi origin woman Roshonara Choudhry, who tried to kill a British MP last year.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague added his warning by declaring, “This is a very serious blow to the Al-Qaida, but like any organisation that has suffered a serious blow, they will want to show in some way that they are still able to operate. We will still have to be more vigilant in the coming days about the international terrorism threat.”

Elsewhere in London, former leader of banned Islamic extremist groups Al-Muhajiroun and Islam4UK Anjem Choudary spoke of his “sadness” that a symbol of the struggle of truth against falsehood had gone.

“I remind you that the Al-Qaida is not a group, rather it is today a phenomenon of the struggle and resistance against the occupation of Muslim land and the defence of Muslim life, honour and property, wherever it is being attacked,” Choudary said.





HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | E-mail |