- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 16, 2002

In just the latest indication of the horrors that Osama bin Laden has in store for us, two Afghan nuclear physicists have revealed that al Qaeda attempted to recruit them to build a nuclear bomb. Julian West of The Washington Times reported Thursday that the scientists risked their lives by hiding enough radioactive materials to build dozens of "dirty" nuclear bombs in the ruins of a Kabul mental hospital and the basement of a university's nuclear physics department. Last week, they directed a team of specially trained British soldiers equipped with state-of-the-art detection equipment to the hidden materials. The British soldiers were astonished by what they found.

"We've been finding stuff that's far more potent and dangerous than even 'dirty bombs,' " said Capt. James Cameron, head of the British team. Capt. Cameron works for the British Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Regiment, which also monitors Saddam Hussein's weapons programs from Kuwait. In the cancer treatment room of the hospital, they found a broken radiotherapy machine containing enough cobalt 60 to kill a man instantly. In the basement of Kabul University, they found containers of solid and liquid radioactive material and chemical warfare agents. Had the scientists not put their lives on the line by defying the Afghan government by tearing up their research documents and stashing the materials where al Qaeda and the Taliban couldn't find them, the consequences could have been horrible.

One of the hero-scientists was Mohammed Korbani, a nuclear physics professor. He said that after the Taliban seized power in Kabul, he was approached by a mysterious organization known as the Chand Groupi or Multi Group, located in a part of the city where many Arab al Qaeda fighters lived and bin Laden operated terrorist safe houses. The organization was linked to a charity run by a renegade Pakistani nuclear scientist named Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmoud, a man described by the CIA as "bin Laden's nuclear secretary." Mr. Mahmoud is currently under house arrest in Pakistan. Weapons found in Mr. Mahmoud's home showed that he was involved in experiments to float an anthrax-laden helium balloon over the United States and that he was attempting to build a nuclear bomb.

Mr. Korbani said that members of Mr. Mahmoud's organization "offered me a lot of money, and said they wanted me to find 100 other nuclear scientists and technicians and come to Karachi [Pakistan]," adding that "they kept calling me, but I never returned" the calls. Capt. Cameron told The Washington Times that there was little doubt that the Taliban and al Qaeda were also seeking to make chemical weapons. Were it not for the heroic behavior of Mr. Korbani and his colleague, Mohammed Jan Naziri, al Qaeda might have been able to build several "dirty" nuclear bombs. All civilized people owe Messrs. Nazari and Korbani a tremendous debt of gratitude.

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