(Reuters) – More action is needed to stop militants acquiring plutonium or highly-enriched uranium that could be used for atomic bombs, nuclear experts and government officials said on Monday.
Speaking at a meeting in Vienna, Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), warned against a “false sense of security” over the danger of nuclear terrorism.
Amano, holding up a small lead container said to have been was used try to traffic highly enriched uranium in the former Soviet Republic of Moldova two years ago, said it showed a “worrying level of knowledge on the part of the smugglers”.
“This case ended well,” he said. “Unfortunately, we cannot be sure if such cases are just the tip of the iceberg.”
Analysts say radical groups could theoretically build a crude but deadly nuclear bomb if they have the money, technical knowledge and the amount of fissile material needed.
Many states have taken steps to prevent malicious acts such as nuclear theft and sabotage, Amano told the delegates.
“Partly as a result of these efforts, there has not been a terrorist attack involving nuclear or other radioactive material,” Amano said. “But this must not lull us into a false sense of security.”
Obtaining weapons-grade fissile material – highly enriched uranium or plutonium – poses the biggest challenge for militant groups, so keeping it secure is vital, both at civilian and military facilities, experts say.
An apple-sized amount of plutonium in a nuclear device and detonated in a highly populated area could instantly kill or wound hundreds of thousands of people, according to the Nuclear Security Governance Experts Group (NSGEG)lobby group.
Because radioactive material is seen as less hard to find and the device easier to manufacture, experts say a so-called “dirty bomb” is a more likely threat than a nuclear bomb.
In a dirty bomb, conventional explosives are used to disperse radiation from a radioactive source, which can be found in hospitals or other places not very well protected.
U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz repeated Washington’s assertion that al Qaeda had been trying for years to obtain nuclear material for a weapon.
“Despite the strides we have made in dismantling core al Qaeda we should expect its adherents…to continue trying to achieve their nuclear ambitions,” he said.
More than a hundred incidents of thefts and other unauthorized activities involving nuclear and radioactive material are reported to the IAEA every year, Amano said.
“Some material goes missing and is never found,” he said.
(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) – Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has issued a stern warning to the ringleader of al-Qaeda against the terrorist group’s further intervention in Syria.
Sadr said Monday that Ayman al-Zawahiri needs to stay away from Syria’s affairs and allow Sunnis and Alawites to live peacefully in Syria as they always did.
He condemned al-Qaeda’s killing of Muslims and said the group and its extremist ways have no place in Islamic nations.
Zawahiri recently said that the notorious Al-Nusra Front in Syria “is an independent branch of Al-Qaeda”. The militant group has carried out a range of atrocities in the Arab country.
The remarks by the influential Iraqi cleric come a day after a spate of violent bomb attacks that killed scores of people across Iraq.
Sunday’s blasts began with a parked car bomb which exploded in the city of Kut — 60 kilometers southeast of Baghdad. Six people were killed and 15 others wounded in that attack.
The attack was followed by another car bomb outside the city which targeted construction workers, killing five and wounded 12 others, police officials said.
One of the deadliest attacks took place in the Shia-populated neighborhood of al-Ameen in southeastern Baghdad. Police said a bomber blew himself up inside a cafe, killing at least 11 people and wounding 25 others.
Other attacks were carried out in the cities of Hillah, Madian, Aziziyah, Mahmudiyah, Nasiriyah, Tuz Khurmatu, Najaf, and Basra on Sunday. Reports said that most of the car bombs hit Shia-majority areas.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombings, but al-Qaeda-linked militant groups, which seek to destabilize the central government of Iraq, frequently carry out such coordinated attacks.
There has recently been an upsurge in violence across Iraq, and the authorities say Qatar and Saudi Arabia have had a hand in some of the deadly incidents.
The United Nations says a total of 1,045 people were killed and nearly 2,400 were injured in violent incidents in Iraq in the month of May.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said that militant groups and the remnants of the former Ba’athist regime are responsible for the latest wave of violence.