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Belgian terror suspect had video of high ranking nuclear official

safety-symbol-SmBelgium Finds Video of Nuclear Official at Home of Terrorism Suspect, NYT By MILAN SCHREUER and ALISSA J. RUBINFEB. 18, 2016 PARIS — A suspect linked to the Nov. 13 Paris attackers was found with surveillance footage of a high-ranking Belgian nuclear official, the Belgian authorities acknowledged on Thursday, raising fears that the Islamic State is trying to obtain radioactive material for a terrorist attack.

The existence of the footage, which the police in Belgium seized on Nov. 30, was confirmed by Thierry Werts, a spokesman for Belgium’s federal prosecutor, after being reported in the Belgian daily newspaper La Dernière Heure.

The news set off an immediate uproar among Belgian lawmakers, who charged that they and the country had been misled about the extent of the potential threats to the country’s nuclear facilities, as well as about the ambitions of the terrorist network linked to the Islamic State that used Belgium to plot the Paris attacks, which killed 130 people.

The International Atomic Energy Agency also confirmed on Thursday a report by Reuters that radioactive material had gone missing since November in Iraq, where the Islamic State controls broad areas of territory, adding to fears that the group may be able to acquire material for an attack with newly disconcerting dimensions.

The Belgian news media, citing sources close to the investigation, said that the surveillance footage had been retrieved from the home of Mohamed Bakkali, who was arrested after the attacks and is in detention on charges of terrorist activity and murder.

Belgian officials have asserted privately that Mr. Bakkali may have been involved in planning several attacks, not only those in Paris. There are currently eight people in detention in Belgium and charged with involvement in the November attacks.

The purpose of the footage retrieved by the Belgian police was not clear. But experts and officials speculated that it could have been part of a plot to abduct the nuclear official, who was not identified but had access to secure areas of a nuclear research facility in Mol, and force him to turn over radioactive material, possibly for use in a dirty bomb.

Sébastien Berg, a spokesman for Belgium’s Federal Agency for Nuclear Control, confirmed that the agency had been informed right away of the existence of the footage and said that employees had been told to increase their vigilance on the work floor. But he acknowledged that no additional guards had been hired or other measures taken to secure the perimeters of Belgium’s nuclear sites.

“We took increased security measures at all four Belgian nuclear sites, based on the general raised security alert in the country and on concrete indications that showed that the terrorists involved in the Paris attacks had the intention to do something involving one of our four nuclear sites,” Mr. Berg said.

Those sites include two power plants and a private company that produces medical isotopes, in addition to the facility in Mol, where scientists conduct research and experiments on radioactive waste to try to find safer ways to store it and reduce damage to the environment, Mr. Berg said.

One experiment being carried out involves the stocking of nuclear waste in bunkers dozens of meters underground, he said, adding that the facility had large stocks of nuclear waste on hand.

Members of Belgium’s Parliament expressed outrage in a regular session Thursday, saying that the interior minister, Jan Jambon, had told them in January that there was no specific threat to nuclear facilities……..

Extremist organizations have long expressed interest in obtaining radioactive material, and there is a market for stolen nuclear waste. News reports in October documented at least four attempts by Russian gangs to sell radioactive material in Moldova, which were thwarted by local officials in concert with the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The International Atomic Energy Agency identified the material missing in Iraq as iridium-192, a highly radioactive isotope that is sometimes sought for use in dirty bombs.

Mr. Berg said that, if acquired, the material at the site in Mol could also be used to make a dirty bomb, which would spread radioactive material over the whole impact zone…….

February 19, 2016 - Posted by | EUROPE, incidents

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