Does Osama bin Laden possess the ultimate weapon – a nuclear bomb – in one form or another? Amid the heightened terrorist alert in the United States and elsewhere, examination of this radiating topic reverberates around the halls of Western governments, security services and in the international press.

Meanwhile, I continue to be haunted by the words of an FBI agent, spoken to me when I was visiting Washington, D.C., in 1995. He revealed that federal officials had uncovered “substantial evidence” that bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorist network had smuggled several Soviet-built nuclear suitcase bombs into the United States. Although the ultimate proof of this contention would be an explosion that no one but America’s worst enemies wants to take place, the circumstantial evidence is apparently compelling enough to keep sending Vice President Dick Cheney to his “undisclosed location.”

The fact that the Kremlin built such weapons is accepted by most Western spy agencies, even if one of the first persons to publicly reveal it was the controversial Russian General Alexander Lebed. He claimed in 1996 that negligent post-Soviet Russian officials had lost track of an astounding 134 of these deadly mini devices, thought to be capable of completely leveling everything within a couple miles of ground zero – not to mention covering an even wider area with carcinogenic nuclear poisons.

Even if just a few of the suitcase nukes are unaccounted for, it would be a few too many.

Reports continue to circulate that some of these field nuclear devices ended up in the hands of Chechen Muslim groups, who passed them along (for a substantial price) to bin Laden. While this has not been concretely proved as far as I can tell, it is clear to Western security agencies that Chechen rebels have close connections to al-Qaida and its notorious leader. That bin Laden desperately desires to acquire nuclear bombs is also quite evident, given that he has publicly said so.

On top of the strong possibility that the Arabian terrorist leader has gotten his jihad hands on KGB-built portable-luggage bombs, it is clear that he has strong supporters in the Pakistani nuclear scientific community. Pakistan’s chief nuclear engineer, Bashiruddin Mahmoud, has not hidden his glowing affection for the turbaned desert warrior. Still, it is thought to be extremely unlikely that he might have been able to arrange a nuclear weapons transfer to al-Qaida operatives. Yet his advice would be invaluable if bin Laden succeeded in getting the material needed to build a nuclear device from elsewhere, as many experts fear he has probably done.

The contention that bin Laden would have no moral qualms about using such a hideous weapon on his perceived infidel enemies, even if most were civilians, is self evident. After all, it was not the recently revealed CIA office near the World Trade Center that was his main target on Sept. 11. The Saudi dissident realized that the twin towers would be full on a Tuesday morning with civilian workers going about their daily jobs. If 5,000 infidel lives are good to take, surely 500,000 are much better.

Chemical strike on New York

Seemingly confirming that mass slaughter is the ultimate goal of some Islamic terrorist militants, I was told by another American security official while visiting the Midwest a few years ago that the original World Trade Center attack in 1993 had a non-conventional chemical component. He further revealed that this fact was concealed from the public on orders of senior officials in the Clinton administration, although he did not impute them with evil motives in doing so. He opined that the administration apparently did not want to “worry” the general public with such frightening details.

According to my source, deadly nerve agents were placed amid the explosives that blew up in the parking garage underneath the WTC. The Arab terrorists – whom he thought were probably linked to Saddam Hussein – apparently hoped that the debilitating chemicals would be widely dispersed by the truck bomb explosion, killing thousands of people in nearby portions of lower Manhattan. In the actual event, the heat of the intense fire that followed the powerful blast quickly destroyed all but a few traces of the chemical agents, said my source.

There is substantial circumstantial evidence that this same “look the other way” attitude carried the day after the TWA Flight 800 explosion in the skies off of Long Island a few years later. After all, why spoil the “feel good” ’90s with the reality that despite the collapse of the dreaded Soviet Union, America still had real enemies out there plotting to reduce her to ashes?

Some who see darker motives behind such apparent government complacency might wonder if the secular humanist propensity to totally ignore the Islamic fundamentalist terrorist threat until forced to do otherwise on Sept. 11 does not reveal something far more sinister. Indeed, there is apparent room to wonder if some Western secular-humanist leaders – especially those who openly disdain their fellow humans who choose to look to the heavens for Divine guidance – have not long viewed the growing Islamic terrorist menace as a powerful tool to further their ultimate goal of ushering in a New World Order.

Expert warrior

Although Osama bin Laden and his mainly Middle East henchmen might appear to come from the Middle Ages to most folks in the West, he is clearly a very clever man. This is demonstrated by his carefully crafted video sermons, designed to pull every possible chain to stir up the Muslim masses in support of his self-declared holy war. This guy knows what he is after, and probably has a long-range game plan of how to get there. It may well include a nuclear explosion at an appropriate moment.

If you have been following this potential hair-splitting aspect of the unfolding terrorist story in recent weeks, you might know that many nuclear experts doubt that the alleged missing Soviet devices are still able to perform their intended task. Such scientists assure us that the tritium triggers needed to detonate the portable bombs have undoubtedly decayed by now, rendering the devices useless. However, some note that it is possible to recharge the triggers for someone who knows his way around such technical concerns, which might include the Pakistani scientist Mahmoud.

At any rate, it is relatively easy to produce a so-called “dirty bomb” comprised of regular explosives laced with nuclear waste materials. Although the kill ratio would be relatively modest from such a blast, it would still act as a powerful psychological weapon in a terrorist war currently focused on the threat of more anthrax attacks.

I have not been able to secure any official comment about recent media reports that alert Israeli security forces intercepted a Palestinian terrorist trying to smuggle such a bomb into the Tel Aviv area a couple weeks ago. It seems that government leaders here think that the public is stressed out enough as it is, which is surely the case.

However, such an interception might help explain why Prime Minister Ariel Sharon felt compelled to cancel his important trip to the United States this week for “security reasons.” After all, he is no longer too upset with the Bush administration for attempting to force Israeli troops out of Yasser Arafat’s towns. Sharon is instead quite pleased that U.S. officials have now officially placed the groups that were the main targets of his recent army incursion – known activists belonging to the Popular Front PLO splinter group, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group – on the administration’s official terrorist list. He would be happier still if U.S. officials formally recognized that members of Arafat’s own Palestinian Authority have engaged in terror strikes over the past year, but he knows that would be asking way too much.

Why wait?

If Osama and gang have anything nuclear hidden up their flowing sleeves, why haven’t they revealed this by launching an attack before now? After all, al-Qaida and Taliban forces are being pummeled by American aircraft in Afghanistan day after day, with no dramatic terrorist response so far in the West other than possibly a few anthrax spores in some mailed envelopes.

The answer could be that recent U.S. government warnings and stepped up security have thwarted such an attack, at least for now. Or perhaps the terrorists have been deliberately giving out false information to wear down weary American security forces and the general public, waiting for a later day to act when the overall guard has dropped a little bit.

My guess is that the wily bin Laden is not suffering all that badly at present, despite the massive American bombing campaign. He knows that support for the counter-terrorism war is already waning in the West, especially in Europe where hand wringing over relatively modest civilian casualties is reaching fever pitch (when will all realize that this is not a game of virtual war?). Meanwhile additional jihad warriors are crossing over porous Afghan borders everyday, some coming from as far away as England and Indonesia.

Without wishing to add to the terrorist problem by further alarming any reader who is already having trouble sleeping at night, I suggest that the Arabian “Robin Hood” may be waiting to unleash his nuclear genii until he can achieve the maximum emotional Islamic response to such a dastardly attack.

As a longtime friend and observer of many Arabs belonging to the growing worldwide population of Mohammad’s faithful followers, I would nominate the holy month of Ramadan as the ideal time to strike. It is always a period of heightened religious fervor in the Muslim world, as I have witnessed many times firsthand. This year, Ramadan begins on Nov. 17. Such an audacious terrorist assault would really get Osama’s jihad struggle off the ground – off the ground of the new Ground Zero.

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