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The nuclear threat Broadcast: October 25, 2001 Reporter: Andrew Veitch
Osama bin Laden has the capacity to make nuclear weapons - but not to deliver them.
That's what western intelligence sources have told Channel Four News: and they think it could have come from Pakistan.
Sources in Washington have stressed it doesn't mean al-Qaida could launch an atomic weapon any moment now: but they also fear the organisation has managed to acquire nuclear material.
With the details - here's our science correspondent Andrew Veitch:
Baluchistan, May 1998: Pakistan proves it's a nuclear power, and the underground explosion makes the mountain turn white.
The army is thought to have between 10 and 30 warheads made from highly enriched uranium.
This week the former project director of the country's nuclear programme and at least two other senior scientists were arrested following surveillance by the security services: they're suspected of being supporters of the Taliban.
And now Channel Four News has learned that Western intelligence believes Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaeda network has obtained nuclear materials, but not the capacity to deliver a nuclear weapon: they believe Pakistan is the source.
A terrorist needs no more than 60 kilograms of highly enriched uranium to make a simple nuclear suitcase bomb.
Both America and the Russians used the technology to make weapons designed to be carried by infantrymen.
Put simply, two balls of uranium are sealed at each end of a tube. They're smashed together. The explosion is as powerful as the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.
It's highly unlikely that Al Qaeda have the technology to make a suitcase bomb themselves, but the belief by Western intelligence that they have obtained nuclear material helps explain why the west is so determined to destroy the network.
The British government's evidence of Al Qaeda's responsibility for the atrocities of September 11th says: "They have sought to acquire nuclear and chemical materials for use as terrorist weapons."
Russian nuclear security officials say terrorists have been caught reconnoitring military storage sites twice this year.
And there's court evidence that Al Qaeda agents tried to buy weapons-grade uranium from South Africa.
But the critics will say the claim that they do have nuclear material represents no more than an attempt to justify the bombing.
-- Martin Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 25, 2001
"A terrorist needs no more than 60 kilograms of highly enriched uranium to make a simple nuclear suitcase bomb."
That would be a heck of a heavy suitcase!
-- Jim Davis (JD1642@aol.con), October 25, 2001.
No, dirty bombs make much more sense. Less destruction per unit, but more bang for the buck. And, from what I undersand, can be carried in a much lighter suitcase.
-- Uncle Fred (email@example.com), October 25, 2001.