Fugitive Saudi terrorist-sponsor Osama bin Laden is now known to have nuclear weapons, putting to rest previous speculation that left the possibility open, according to a weekly intelligence newsletter.

A report published in this week’s Geostrategy-Direct.com newsletter, edited in part by Washington Times staffers Bill Gertz and Robert Morton, indicated that bin Laden’s possession of nuclear devices “is no longer a doubt.”

“Saudi billionaire fugitive Osama bin Laden has nuclear weapons. The question is how many,” the report said.

Gertz told WND he didn’t write the assessment, but that the newsletter’s primary editor, Morton, had a stringer in the Mideast who verified the information. Morton was out of his office and could not be reached for comment.

“Russian intelligence sources who are fighting bin Laden members in Chechnya believe [he] has a handful of tactical nuclear weapons,” said the report. “Arab intelligence sources say the Al Qaida head has as many as 20 weapons.”

Al Qaida is the name of the terrorist group bin Laden leads.

The report says “both sides agree” that the Saudi terrorist managed to acquire his weapons by supporting the Chechen cause with money and volunteers, in exchange for nuclear materials and technology.

Bin Laden “received [it] from Chechen insurgents who raided [Russian] nuclear installations for fuel and components around the former Soviet Union,” the report said.

“With that came the recruits from among scientists from the former Soviet Union. The rest was easy,” said Geostrategy-Direct.com.

The report said the actual location of the weapons is unknown, but “the assessment by both Arab and Russian sources is that bin Laden has managed to sneak at least some of the components to his lair in Afghanistan.”

Bin Laden is one of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives. He is wanted in connection with the Aug. 7, 1998, bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa — one in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and the other in Nairobi, Kenya. Over 200 were killed in the attacks.

He is believed to have a connection to the Oct. 12 bombing of the destroyer USS Cole as it refueled in Yemen, WND reported Oct. 26.

The State Department had no comment on the report, but other intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told WND that any reports dealing with bin Laden are taken seriously.

“Reports regarding bin Laden are always taken seriously and investigated,” the official said. “He clearly poses a threat to U.S. interests around the world, so you can’t dismiss every rumor out of hand. It wouldn’t be prudent to do that.”

In January, the New York Times — quoting U.S. officials — said bin Laden’s organization was making attempts to manufacture chemical weapons and “buy enriched uranium,” one of the main components of a nuclear device.

But as far back as August 1999, counter-terrorism experts said bin Laden may have acquired “up to 20 nuclear devices.”

“Yosef Bodansky, a researcher of the House Task Force for Counter-terrorism and author of a new book on bin Laden, told a news conference on Friday that bin Laden has been seeking to follow up on his bombings of two U.S. embassies in east Africa one year ago. Echoing U.S. officials, Bodansky said bin Laden was thwarted in plans to blow up the U.S. embassy and two consulates in India last December and January,” WorldTribune.com reported.

“It was also reported that bin Laden has biological, chemical and nuclear weapons and has received technical help from Iraq, Bodansky said. The nuclear weapons include suitcase bombs acquired through Chechen rebels,” the paper said.

“The Russians believe that he has a handful [of nuclear weapons]. The Saudi intelligence services are very conservative. … They are friendly to the United States [and] believe that he has in the neighborhood of 20,” Bodansky said, as quoted by the Internet paper.

Bin Laden reportedly obtained and purchased the suitcase bombs from multiple sources, he said. He has a “collection of individuals knowledgeable in activating the bombs” and “is recruiting former Soviet special forces [to learn] how to operate the bombs behind enemy lines,” Bodansky said.

He noted that, according to his research, most of the weapons had been transferred through Pakistan.

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Suspect pegged in Cole bombing

Bin Laden calls for war against U.S.

Covert U.S. bin Laden mission under way

Related column:

Is bin Laden a nuclear power?

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