Osama’s Nukes

Over at Command Post , Michele passes along this AP story:

Osama bin Laden’s terror network claims to have bought ready-made nuclear weapons on the black market in central Asia, the biographer of al-Qaida’s No. 2 leader was quoted as telling an Australian television station.

In an interview scheduled to be televised on Monday, Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir said Ayman al-Zawahri claimed that “smart briefcase bombs” were available on the black market. It was not clear when the interview between Mir and al-Zawahri took place.

U.S. intelligence agencies have long believed that al-Qaida attempted to acquire a nuclear device on the black market, but say there is no evidence it was successful.

In the interview with Australian Broadcasting Corp. television, parts of which were released Sunday, Mir recalled telling al-Zawahri it was difficult to believe that al-Qaida had nuclear weapons when the terror network didn’t have the equipment to maintain or use 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,'” Mir said in the interview.

This is interesting although, as the piece points out several paragraphs down, such claims are not new.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Delta Dave says:

    Generally, if terrorist feel compelled to make such statements its to instill fear, not fact.

    If they, in fact, had nucs, they would make their statments in other ways.

    That’s not to say such statements should be taken lightly…because they do reflect intent to acquire and intent to use … thus we must endure in the war against terrorism and Never Forget.

  2. R Gardner says:

    Briefcase bomb? OK, very heavy briefcase. Rather heavy suitcase, that you can’t lift. (or was that an elephant?) Regardless, after over 10 years of no maintenance, you might get a pop, and not much boom. Think of it as an AMC Gremlin that hasn’t moved in 15 years. Will it start, or won’t it? And if it does, can it get up to 60 MPH?

  3. They would have used it by now.

  4. r. gardner is right. they are just attempting to frighten us. if you could truly carry one in a suitcase it certainly wouldn’t do much damage. the yield would have to be very small.

  5. James Joyner says:

    I always thought the suitcase nukes were a myth but a retired SF buddy of mine said they had ’em. They were incredibly low yield, though. I guess the main threat from a terrorist standpoint would be to make a “dirty bomb” out of it.

  6. a random passerby says:

    Even so, you have to wonder but that they might get some nukes eventually. Scary.