Journalist says al-Qaeda has black market nuclear bombs
March 22, 2004: (Sydney Morning Herald) -- Osama bin Laden's terrorist network claimed to have bought ready-made nuclear bombs on the black market, the al-Qaeda chief's biographer has said.
Pakistani journalist Hamad Mir said bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, made the claim following an interview by Mr Mir with bin Laden in November 2001.
Mr Mir said he told al-Zawahri it was difficult to believe al-Qaeda had nuclear weapons when they did not have the equipment to maintain or fire them.
"Dr Ayman al-Zawahri laughed and he said 'Mr Mir, if you have $30 million, go to the black market in central Asia, contact any disgruntled Soviet scientist, and a lot of ... smart briefcase bombs are available,'" Mr Mir said in an interview with ABC TV's Andrew Denton.
"They have contacted us, we sent our people to Moscow, to Tashkent, to other central Asian states and they negotiated, and we purchased some suitcase bombs."
Western intelligence agencies have dismissed al-Qaeda claims to have nuclear weapons, although in 2001, documents giving details of how to build a nuclear bomb were found in an al-Qaeda safe house in Afghanistan.
The US State Department's top anti-terror official, Cofer Black, said recently terror groups had the will and possibly the expertise to build a bomb, and would just need the materials.
But buying a ready-made Russian bomb on the black market would avoid the need for special equipment or expertise.
In the interview to be screened on Monday night, Mr Mir said al-Zawahri had travelled to Australia in the early 1990s in a bid to establish a global terror network.
He described al-Zawahri as the brains behind al-Qaeda.
"He is the real brain behind Osama bin Laden ... he is the real strategist, Osama bin Laden is only a frontman," Mr Mir said.
"I think that he [al-Zawahri] is the man responsible for all the big terrorist attacks in the recent past."
"I think he is more dangerous than bin Laden."
Al-Qaeda might attack Australia because of its support for the war on terror, he said.
Mr Mir said before meeting bin Laden, al-Qaeda officials forced him to take 10 hot baths in 40 or 50 minutes because they were afraid he had been sprayed with chemicals that could give away his location.
After he and bin Laden left, US B52 bombers attacked the house.
© 2004 Sydney Morning Herald.
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