Israel Finds Radiological Backpack Bomb : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Israel Finds Radiological Backpack Bomb Last Updated: 14-Oct-01   WASHINGTON, Oct 14, 2001 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Israeli security last month arrested a man linked to suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden armed with a radiological backpack bomb, as he attempted to enter Israel from the Palestinian Territories via a border checkpoint at Ramallah, according to U.S. government officials.

The arrest took place during the last week of September, according to one knowledgeable official who spoke on condition of anonymity. He declined to give the exact date of arrest. Two other sources interviewed by UPI confirmed the incident, but also declined to give further details.

"People know how to walk a dog back," one said, meaning that relating too exact an account could lead to the identification of the source of the information. Regarding the arrest, a U.S. government official said: "There was only one individual involved. He was from Pakistan." Another source said U.S. officials believed that the suspect had probably gotten to the territories via Lebanon.

Information on the arrest went immediately to U.S. President Bush and a close circle of advisors, another U.S. official said. He described the appearance and character of the top-secret report circulated among the Cabinet members and signed by each official present.

Former Pentagon terrorism expert, Peter Probst, described a radiological bomb as a device with a small explosive core that is encased in radioactive material. "It would not kill a great many people, but it would contaminate a considerable area with radiation," he said. A U.S. government expert said that the weapon captured by Israel was a backpack device that CIA officials learned about through Russian intelligence agents in place in 1995.

He emphasized it was not a so-called nuclear suitcase bomb.

The CIA had intelligence reports from senior Arab intelligence officials alleging that in October 1998 bin Laden had obtained one or two nuclear suitcase weapons from a Central Asian republic in return for $30 million in cash and two tons of heroin worth $70 million - a deal brokered by the Chechen mafia.

Russian Gen. Aleksandr Ivanovich Lebed, a former national security advisor to then-President Yeltsin acknowledged publicly in 1997 that several nuclear suitcase bombs had disappeared from Russia's arsenal.

But former CIA counter-terrorism official Vince Cannistraro has no patience with such accounts: "All talk of bin Laden having a nuclear suitcase bomb is crap," he said. Cannistraro could not be reached for comment about the backpack device.

Nuclear suitcase bombs were designed for Soviet Speznatz or special operations troops to assault and destroy NATO command and control bunkers in Europe in the event of a NATO-Soviet war. The devices could not be detonated without matching codes held in strictest security by Moscow, a former CIA official said.

Backpack bombs have no such codes, but they were also designed for Spetznetz forces and have such an intricate and complex system of activation that the ability of a terrorist to detonate one "would be incredibly limited," according to one U.S. government official.

"There is such a complicated sequence you have to perform that some terrorist isn't going to be able to get it to work. You have to be very highly trained," an intelligence official agreed, describing the chances that the device could have been activated as "practically miniscule."

Probst is nevertheless convinced that radiological bombs are still a danger for New York City. "Bin Laden is fascinated by Wall Street. My fear is that he will attempt to smuggle in some "dirty" bomb that wouldn't kill many people but would dangerously contaminate the area," he said.

United Press International

-- Rich Marsh (, October 21, 2001

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