- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2003

LONDON, Jan. 31 (UPI) — British officials have reportedly revealed evidence they claim shows al Qaida sought to assemble radioactive material to build a so-called dirty bomb. The British Broadcasting Corp. says it's been shown "previously undisclosed material," including secret intelligence from agents sent by Britain into al Qaida training camps in Afghanistan.

It says the agents posed as recruits, blended in and reported back "that Osama bin Laden's weapons program was further on than anyone thought."

British officials said on Thursday that bin Laden had gained the expertise and possibly the materials to build a crude radioactive bomb.

According to the BBC, the government has said that evidence suggests that by 1999, bin Laden's priority was to develop a weapon of mass destruction. It quotes unidentified officials as saying that he had acquired radioactive isotopes from the Taliban to do this and development work on the "dirty bomb" had been carried out in a nuclear laboratory in Herat, Afghanistan.

It said the government had al Qaida training manuals that "detail how to use a dirty bomb to maximum effect."

The network said it sought a second opinion on the claims from an expert on al Qaida: Mustafa Alani of the Royal United Service Institute, a London security and defense organization. He's quoted by the BBC as saying: "It is credible. This is proof that al Qaida put a lot of effort into collecting information and educating other members of the organization. It is possible to produce this sort of weapon."

The BBC adds: "British military personnel worked with intelligence officers to gather material, which was taken to Porton Down defense research center in Wiltshire. Their conclusion was that al Qaida had a small dirty bomb but probably not a full-blown nuclear device."

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