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U.S.: Authorities Say 'Dirty Bomb' Attack Thwarted

Moscow, 10 June 2002 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft says U.S. authorities have arrested an Al-Qaeda terrorist who was planning to detonate a radioactive bomb in the United States. Ashcroft said Abdullah al-Mujahir, a U.S. citizen also known as Jose Padilla, was arrested on 8 May when he arrived at a Chicago airport on a flight from Pakistan.

The attorney general said the U.S. government has "multiple, independent, and corroborating sources" that the suspect was planning an attack with a 'dirty bomb,' a device using conventional explosives to spread radioactive material, such as nuclear waste, over a large area.

"From information available to the United States government, we know that Abdullah al-Mujahir is an Al-Qaeda operative and was exploring a plan to build and explode a radioactive dirty bomb."

Ashcroft also said U.S. intelligence found that al-Mujahir trained in Afghanistan with the Al-Qaeda terrorist network, blamed for the September terrorist attacks in the United States. Ashcroft said the suspect was in the custody of the U.S. Defense Department as an "enemy combatant."

In Washington, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller said it appears that Al-Qaeda had not yet assembled such a bomb, but was in the planning stages of doing so. And Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said it also appears that the group had not yet decided on a target.

For more on so-called "dirty bombs," please see World: Danger Of 'Dirty Bombs' Exacerbated By Old Soviet Generators.