Belgian authorities confirmed “concrete” evidence on Thursday of Islamic radicals’ long-term goal of using nuclear terrorism on western nations.
Thierry Werts, a spokesman for Belgium’s federal prosecutor, authenticated Belgian daily newspaper La Dernière Heure’s report that a suspect linked with the Nov. 13, 2015, terror attacks in Paris, France, was found with surveillance footage of a top nuclear scientist. The ISIS plot killed 130 across the city, with 89 perishing in the Bataclan theater alone.
Mohamed Bakkali, 26, was arrested in the Belgian town of Auvelais Nov. 30 and is suspected of allowing terrorists to use his home as a hide-out. Video in his possession included ten hours of film taken with a camera hidden in a bush near the Belgian scientist’s home. The scientist’s name was not disclosed by officials for security reasons.
Closed-circuit television cameras in the area showed two men retrieving the camera late at night before driving away with their lights off, the U.K. Independent reported Thursday.
Sébastien Berg, a spokesman for Belgium’s Federal Agency for Nuclear Control, said the agency was quickly informed of the footage in November.
Berg said there were “concrete indications that showed that the terrorists involved in the Paris attacks had the intention to do something involving one of our four nuclear site,” the New York Times reported Thursday. “If they find a way to spread such material among the population, they could do a lot of damage.”
Members of Belgium’s Parliament were livid over the revelation because they were kept in the dark for months.
“Your services possessed this videotape since Nov. 30, and the nuclear control agency was informed immediately,” said Jean-Marc Nollet, a Parliament member from Ecolo, Belgium’s green party, the Times reported. “So I don’t understand how you could have been in possession of this video since Nov. 30, but on Jan. 13, when I questioned you on this, you answered, ‘There is no specific threat to the nuclear facilities.'”
The reports out of Belgium came less than 24 hours after Iraq admitted it is still looking for “highly dangerous” radioactive material that was stolen from a storage facility near Basra last year.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters on Thursday that Iraq was also missing a camera that contains highly radioactive Iridium-192. The material disappeared in November.
“They’ve been looking for it ever since. Whether it was just misplaced, or actually stolen, isn’t clear,” the official said.
“We are afraid the radioactive element will fall into the hands of [ISIS],” a senior security official with Iraq’s interior ministry added. “They could simply attach it to explosives to make a dirty bomb.”
A spokesman for Basra operations command told Reuters that authorities are working “day and night” to locate the material.