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Tuesday, 23 April, 2002, 13:28 GMT 14:28 UK
Al-Qaeda claims 'dirty bomb' know-how
Nuclear fuel rod
Nuclear fuel rods can be used in 'dirty bombs'
The al-Qaeda terror network knows how to build a "dirty bomb", a senior Osama Bin Laden aide is reported to have told US interrogators.


It could be he's not being truthful. It could be that he's boasting

US official
Abu Zubaydah - Bin Laden's chief of operations until his capture in Pakistan last month - said the organisation also knew how to smuggle it into the United States, unnamed US officials have been quoted as saying.

A "dirty bomb" - also called a radiological dispersal device - involves wrapping radioactive material such as spent nuclear fuel rods around ordinary high explosives.

But the officials said they were highly sceptical of the credibility of Abu Zubaydah's claim, who also recently said al-Qaeda was targeting banks in the United States. That report was the basis of an FBI alert last week.

"It could be he's not being truthful. It could be that he's boasting," a US official told the Associated Press news agency.

Long-term impact

The official said that Abu Zubaydah's claims further confirmed that al-Qaeda was interesting in acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

Abu Zubaydah
Zubaydah fell into US hands last month

A "dirty bomb" could be used in a car bomb or many other forms of delivery.

The damage is not caused so much by the explosion, but by the intense radiation that would be released into the atmosphere.

As well as causing deaths in the immediate area, this could lead to cancers and other health problems over many years, as after the nuclear accident at the Chernobyl plant in the Ukraine.

At a recent Senate committee hearing, US senators warned that the so-called "dirty" bombs could create mass panic among the population.

Some experts say "dirty bombs" are not difficult to build, and researchers have recently warned that the world may be awash in unaccounted nuclear material.

See also:

05 Dec 01 | Americas
Alert highlights 'dirty bomb' fears
23 Apr 02 | Americas
Camp X-Ray to get new prison
20 Apr 02 | Americas
FBI puts banks on terror alert
27 Nov 01 | South Asia
Al-Qaeda 'weapons labs' probe
03 Apr 02 | Americas
'Key' al-Qaeda recruiter captured
07 Mar 02 | Americas
Fears over missing nuclear material
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