- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2001

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz warned NATO yesterday that terrorists in the future could carry out attacks using weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. Wolfowitz told NATO defense ministers in Brussels there is an "alarming coincidence between those states that harbor international terrorists and those states that have active and maturing WMD [weapons of mass destruction] programs," a U.S. official told reporters.
"This raises the specter of potential access to those WMD by international terrorist networks, and it also potentially creates a problem for dealing with those states that harbor international terrorists," the official told reporters in Brussels.
The comments followed new intelligence reports that Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist group is acquiring materials for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons through Russian organized crime groups.
Bush administration spokesmen declined to comment on the reports, first reported in yesterday's editions of The Washington Times, citing a policy of not discussing intelligence matters.
Intelligence officials said the efforts did not mean bin Laden currently possesses such weapons, only that he is trying to get them.
The intelligence reports also indicate that bin Laden has a secret weapons laboratory inside Afghanistan where terrorists are working on nuclear arms, according to officials familiar with the reports.
Defense officials said the threat of bin Laden's organization conducting attacks with deadly chemical, biological or nuclear-related materials is real.
"There's a lot of concern at the attempts of terrorist groups, particularly bin Laden's, to use weapons of mass destruction, since he has shown he's willing to attack innocent people as he did this time," said a senior defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "Anytime there is such disregard for human life, you have worry about them having more powerful weapons."
The intelligence reports come amid alarming reports that the U.S. government temporarily grounded agricultural crop-dusting aircraft because of fears they could be used to spray chemical or biological weapons.
Attorney General John Ashcroft said on Tuesday there also are fears that the hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center were seeking drivers' licenses for transporting hazardous materials.
Yossef Bodansky, author of a 1999 book on bin Laden, stated that Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan under bin Laden's command "have been actively preparing for spectacular terrorist strikes using chemical, bacteriological and perhaps radiological weapons in a well-equipped, fortified compound concealed near Kandahar."
Mr. Bodansky said there are reports from Russian and Southwest Asia indicating bin Laden has purchased several tactical nuclear weapons from organized crime elements in Chechnya.
Frank Cilluffo, a global crime analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Russian and Central Asian mob groups have had close ties to groups linked to bin Laden, such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
"They are a loosely affiliated group connected to bin Laden," Mr. Cilluffo said.
The connections between Russian organized crime and Afghanistan have included trade in illegal drugs, primarily opiates, opium and heroin, he said.
Mr. Cilluffo said Russian crime groups could be helping provide weapons of mass destruction goods to bin Laden.
"The tentacles do reach there, so that is certainly possible," he said.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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