On at least four occasions over the past five years, smugglers in Moldova have attempted to sell radioactive material to extremists, according to a new report from the Associated Press. To make matters worse, the smugglers, who have suspected ties to Russian organized-crime syndicates, are actively seeking to sell nuclear material to ISIS.
“You can make a dirty bomb, which would be perfect for the Islamic State,” one smuggler told an undercover agent posing as a buyer. “If you have a connection with them, the business will go smoothly.”
According to the report, many of the smugglers were motivated not only by profit, but also a desire to see a weapon of mass destruction used against the United States. Specifically, a known KGB informant named Teodor Chetrus offered enough plutonium for a small dirty bomb, provided the buyers were Islamic extremists.
“He said multiple times that this substance must have a real buyer from the Islamic states to make a dirty bomb,” said Constantin Malic, a Moldovan investigator who worked on the case with the FBI.
According to Malic, another smuggler working as a middleman made similar requests.
“He said: ‘I really want an Islamic buyer because they will bomb the Americans.’”
Luckily, the buyer in this case was an undercover agent. And the first batch of uranium supplied by Chetrus turned out to be fairly harmless in terms of making an actual dirty bomb. However, after Chetrus was arrested, investigators discovered he had been negotiating a deal to sell bomb-grade uranium to a real buyer in the middle east. And unfortunately, while many low-to-mid-level members like Chetrus were eventually arrested, leaders of the smuggling ring managed to escape.
“Until the head of the criminal group is sentenced and jailed, until we know for sure where those substances seized in Europe came from and where they were going to, only then will we be able to say a danger is no longer present,” Gheorghe Cavcaliuc, a senior Moldovan police officer told the AP.
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(Source: The Associated Press)