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What if terrorists have a clear nuclear intent?

What if terrorists have a clear nuclear intent?
Highlights

Has the world entered the age of mass casualty terrorism? From the bombing of twin trade towers to Mumbai carnage to Paris mayhem to the latest...

Western studies have proved that at least two terror groups, al Qaeda and Japanese terror cult Aum Shinrikyo, have already made serious efforts to get nuclear weapons. Evidence also suggests that Chechen terror module too has embarked on the path. This one had already conducted reconnaissance at Russia nuclear weapon storage sites

Has the world entered the age of mass casualty terrorism? From the bombing of twin trade towers to Mumbai carnage to Paris mayhem to the latest Brussels bombings, the pattern only indicates so. However unpalatable this may be to digest, the answer is a big YES.

There is no point in an ostrich like approach to the issue of terrorism any longer. These attacks mentioned here are not a part of full scale war. These are only preparatory ones. All these attacks are kind of teasers. The moot point, however, is whether these attacks are indicators of a much larger sinister design of nuking the world?

Again the answer seems to be yes. Intelligence agencies across the world are relentlessly piecing together information on various terror modules and alarm bells are already ringing at their headquarters.More watched and analysed is whether the terror groups are aiming to arm themselves with nuclear bombs, even if it's a crude one. Making a crude nuke would not be easy, but is potentially within the capabilities of a technically sophisticated terrorist organisation.

Many governments in the West have already concluded this following cases of theft of plutonium or highly enriched uranium (HEU) in smaller quantities. Nuclear smuggling is difficult to detect owing to its smaller quantities.The Western governments are aware of this problem as even a small crude bomb could turn a buzzing European city into a radioactive ruin.

It is not just the kill-potential that we are talking about here. The fallout economically, socially and politically too, could be devastating.Western studies have proved that at least two terror groups, al Qaeda and Japanese terror cult Aum Shinrikyo, have already made serious efforts to get nuclear weapons. Evidence also suggests that Chechen terror module too has embarked on the path. This one had already conducted reconnaissance at Russia nuclear weapon storage sites.

Once a terror module sets its eyes on HEU, it is bound to possess the same, thanks due to several disgruntled groups and individuals. Amongst these groups, Al Qaeda had a focused nuclear weapons programme and repeatedly attempted to buy stolen nuclear bomb material and recruit nuclear expertise, sustained studies by Harvard Kennedy School revealed. The ongoing study proves that Al Qaeda has gone as far as carrying out crude tests of conventional explosives for their nuclear bomb programme in the Afghan desert.

Though there is no open evidence of the Islamic State pursuing a nuclear goal so far, it is inevitable that the group would one day move in this direction as it readies itself for a full scale war against the 'crusader' forces.The study suggested that the Islamic State has ordered an in-depth monitoring of a senior official of a Belgian facility with substantial stocks of HEU. A clear nuclear intent.

"If the Islamic State does turn to seeking nuclear weapons, it has more money, controls more territory and people and enjoys a greater ability to recruit experts globally than al Qaeda at its strongest ever had. Terrorist use of nuclear weapons may not be a high probability—but the global economic, political, and social consequences would be so severe that even a low probability should be enough to motivate an intense focus on steps such as nuclear security to reduce the risk", the study warned all nuclear powers in the world.

In this regard it should be noted that the rise of the IS should be of a bigger concern. When we are talking about the IS and its rise, it is not just about Syria and Iraq including the cities of Mosul and Raqqa or the declared Islamic Caliphate. It is not just this substantial territory it controls or its ability to access the financial assets and revenues in that area.

It could take some hits every now and then even. More worrisome is the factor that the IS now has the capability to launch deadly isolated strikes. The fatal attraction of the IS is such that some 43 groups of Europe, Asia and Africa have sworn allegiance to it and are supporting it and its causes.

The group might have lost its sheen in its core area due to the blows it suffered recently (there are reports of it scaling down the salaries to fidayeens in the last few months), but the case of Ilyass Boughalab's recruitment by the IS should wake us up to the reality.

Ilyass Boughalab was working the vital areas of Belgian nuclear power plant and he left for Syria to fight on behalf of the IS. A report of the Carnegie Moscow Centre had pointed out that Russia should prepare itself for IS-inspired threats if not a direct IS attack. It said "the ethnic composition of the Ural region is changing as a result of an influx of migrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus, occasionally causing tensions between migrants and locals.

A number of Muslims from the Ural Federal District have participated in terrorist acts in Central Asia and the Caucasus or have gone to fight for the self-proclaimed Islamic State in the Middle East".Entire world knows and the IS knows only too well that unlike the Caucasus region, the Ural Federal District encompasses some of Russia’s largest nuclear weapons-related facilities. It further said

Moreover, unlike many terrorist groups, IS has demonstrated an ability to manage implementation of large-scale, long-term projects. Its intentions with respect to nuclear terrorism remain more obscure. In November last, the Belgian police discovered that some IS operatives involved in the Paris attacks had taken hours of surveillance video at the home of a senior official of SKN-CEN, a Belgian nuclear research center with a substantial amount of HEU on-site.

Studies suggested that investigators have not managed to confirm what the terrorists were seeking to accomplish through this monitoring. One possibility is that they envisioned kidnapping the official or his family in an effort to force him to help them gain access to the nuclear facility and its material. This focused, extended monitoring of a nuclear official at a sensitive site is the most worrying indicator of IS nuclear intent to date.

The Belgian police also accessed, in May of 2015, a copy of Dabiq—the IS English-language propaganda organ—which published an article purportedly written by John Cantlie, a hostage who may have turned propagandist for the group, which had a paragraph fantasizing about the group buying a nuclear weapon from corrupt officials in Pakistan.

The New York Times reported that IS was actively seeking to purchase “red mercury”—a mythical material believed by some to be useful in nuclear weapons, which has been the center of countless nuclear smuggling scams—over a period of more than a year.

Ahead of the war with IS, it is all the more important to ensure nuclear security. One may control the entire nuclear arsenal, but not a mind with devious design working on the site.Simon Jenkins rightly pointed out in The Guardian "think like the enemy. Let’s suppose I am an Islamic State terrorist. I don’t do bombs or bullets.

I leave the dirty work to the crazies in the basement. My job is what happens next. It is to turn carnage into consequences, body parts into politics. I am a consultant terrorist. I wear a suit, not explosives. A blood-stained concourse is a means to an end. The end is power". Sadly, the reaction too could be similar. After all, the world is filled with paranoid politicians and sensational journalists!

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