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Article No: 489
Date: 12 April 2001

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International Terrorism: 
Osama bin Laden and Weapons of Mass Destruction

Dr.Subhash Kapila

    The United States and Western Countries have been haunted ever since the disintegration of the Soviet Union with the prospect of WMDs falling into the hands of terrorist groups.  Their fears have turned out true with information now available that the Islamic Jehadi groups led by Osama bin Laden have indeed acquired WMDs.WMDs in the hands of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists fortified with the spirit of martyrdom and imbued with the frenzy of expelling the United States from the Islamic world or Islamisation of countries with sizeable Muslim population, indeed become frightening weapons of terror.

Indications of possession of WMDs by Osama bin Laden are amplified below.

Chemical and Biological Weapons
    Islamist terrorists, both Afghan and Arab Afghans under the guidance of Osama bin Laden and supervision of Pakistan’s ISI have established well fortified facilities in Kandahar in Afghanistan for production of chemical, bacteriological and radiological weapon (perhaps) too.  This set-up was established in May 1998 with the acquisition of plant and machinery from Yugoslavia.  This plant arrived via Pakistan with assistance of ISI.
    The first WMD base at Kandahar commenced training of terrorist operatives for biological and chemical weapons from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan. Egypt and the Gulf states there after.
    The second WMD base is reported to have been established at Zenica in Bosnia-Herzegovina.  Terrorist operative training here is being imparted to first generation European Muslims convertees and second generation emigres from the Muslim world.
    Sources from which chemical and biological weapons materials/samples have been obtained or purchased for relatively small amounts of money are as follows:

  • Russia  Viruses causing deadly diseases such as Ebola and Salmonella. 
  • Czech Republic  Samples of botulism bio-toxin 
  • North Korea Samples of deadly anthrax. 
  • Unknown  Source Sarin
    The production facilities are being supervised by a group of Ukrainian experts (chemists and biologists).

Nuclear Suitcase Bombs and Tactical Nudear Weapons 
    Osama bin Laden’s quest for nuclear weapons commenced in 1996 and he is reported to have spent millions of dollars on this project.  The focus has been an acquisition of nuclear suitcase bombs. Arab intelligence sources indicate acquisition of tactical nuclear weapons also.
    Corroborative evidence has reached United States from Russian, Arab countries and from confessions by captured Islamic terrorists worldwide.  The estimates of Osama bin Laden acquisitions are as follows.

  • Russian estimates – ‘ Few nuclear suitcase bombs.
  • Arab intelligence sources –     More than 20 nuclear suitcase bombs .
    The nuclear suitcase bombs have been acquired from Central Asian Republics (CAR) Islamic countries with the active assisstance of Chechen Muslim rebels.  Laden’s agents are reported to have paid $ 30 million cash and two tons of Afghan heroin worth $ 700 million in Western markets, to Chechen mafia for this purpose.
    The suitcase nuclear bombs are reported to be stored at two locations in Afghanistan :
  • Khowst. In deep tunnels.
  • Kandahar. In deep caves
    This nuclear program is being run by a Western educated Arab nuclear scientist, (turned Islamic Jehadi) and assisted by five Turkoman Muslim.  Others too have been brought from CAR countries.
    The nuclear suitcase bombs could only be operated by SPETZNAZ (Russian Special Forces) personnel.  Some Ukrainian and Baltic region SPETZNAZ troopers are reported to have been recruited, not for operating the bombs but as escorts / protection for these bombs and the technicians.
    However the operational use of suitcase nuclear bombs will be entrusted only to Islamic Jehadis. To overcome the technical problems of coded transmissions for activation of these nuclear suitcase bombs (Russian technique,) it is reported that Laden’s nuclear experts could “hot-wire” them and these can be used by human-bomb volunteers from amongst the Islamic Jehadis seeking martyrdom. 
    That nuclear suitcase bombs could have reached Osama bin Laden stand corroborated by General Lebed’s  (former Security chief of Russia) statement in 1997 that a number of such bombs stood missing from Russian arsenals.
    Combating terrorism is itself a very complex and frustrating task.  The task of combating Islamic Jehadi terrorism of the Osama bin Laden variety imposes new challenges for countries being targeted by Islamic Jehadis.  The WMD threat so posed can only be effectively met by intelligence of a very high order  which could facilitate pre-emptive actions.
    If the current record of Taliban’s attitudes to intentional criticism over the Bamiyan episode is an indicator, Osama bin Laden will have nothing but contempt for any overtures to give up the WMDs as a tool of Islamic Jehad.  WMDs give the Islamic Jehadis an unprecedented power to indulge in political blackmail of Western and other targeted countries.  Aware of the vulnerability of civilised societies to political terror and panic, the WMD provides a heady intoxication of unrivalled power to the Islamic Jehadis.
    Technical means for long distance disablement of such weapons do not seem to be in existence.  Devoid of these, the United States as the primary target has no choice but to keep strict and effective surveillance of Osama bin Laden’s activities, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan as the main conduit of both westward and eastward movement of the Jehadi’s WMDs.  India too as one of the targets identified by Laden needs to ponder seriously as to how combat this menace.