WASHINGTON – The Pentagon has confirmed to WND that the Islamic State has seized enough radioactive materials from captured Iraqi facilities to develop “dirty bombs,” just as ISIS’ recent English-language magazine, Dabiq, claimed.
The ISIS claim had alarmed the Australian intelligence service, which initially revealed the prospect that ISIS fighters have seized sufficient radioactive and biological materials from research centers and hospitals – which previously were under Iraqi government control.
Such seizures were first revealed at a meeting of the Australia Group in Perth, Australia, at which Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop expressed the deep concern of members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and regional partners over the potential use by ISIS of the seized materials.
“We are aware of claims that ISIL has declared its motives of developing a ‘dirty bomb’ in a recent edition of its propaganda magazine,” Defense Department spokeswoman, U.S. Navy Cmdr. Elissa Smith, told WND.
“We share the same concern as our Australian defense officials and regional partners and will continue to use our intelligence resources to remain vigilant of any activity and indicators of this violent extremist organization’s intent to employ such weapons,” she said.
It is the first time that any U.S. official has confirmed that the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, had acquired a sufficient amount of radioactive materials to be incorporated in conventional weapons, such as artillery, to spread harmful radiation.
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A “dirty bomb” simply is a conventional explosives package wrapped with radioactive or biological materials.
If such projectiles are fired into highly populated, confined areas, the effect of such an explosion would radiate the area for years to come.
U.S. officials have told WND that there is mounting concern that ISIS, with its development of weapons of mass destruction, may accelerate attacks, even though the Muslim world has just entered into the month-long holy period of fasting called Ramadan.
In 2014, Iraq first informed the United Nations by letter that ISIS had seized nuclear materials used for scientific research at a university in the city of Mosul.
That city was captured by ISIS and remains under jihadist control to this day. Mosul is some 400 kilometers, or 250 miles, northwest of Iraq’s capital, Baghdad.
The letter said that ISIS had seized some 40 kilograms, or 88 pounds, of uranium compounds.
The letter appealed for U.N. help to “stave off the threat of their use by terrorists in Iraq or abroad.”
Even though the U.N.’s atomic agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, claimed at the time that the seizure was of low grade products, experts had stated that such materials could spread radioactivity.
Initially, U.S. officials had played down the threat the materials would pose, claiming that it would be difficult for the jihadists to use the materials to make weapons.
However, Iraq’s ambassador to the U.N., Mohamed Ali Alhakim, said the nuclear materials, “despite the limited amounts, can enable terrorist groups, with the availability of the required expertise, to use it separately or in combination with other materials in its terrorist acts.”
In showing some concern over the capture of radioactive materials, the U.S. State Department in September 2014 said that it had signed an agreement with the Baghdad government to step up joint efforts to detect and recover sensitive nuclear materials around the country before ISIS could get to the supplies.
“Obtaining radiological material from places like universities or hospitals is relatively easy if you have the firepower, a chaotic situation and jihadists willing to sacrifice their health handling it,” Ryan Mauro of The Clarion Project told Fox News at the time.
Similarly Matthew Bunn, a professor with the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, told Fox News that the purpose of such a weapon is to terrorize a population and the threat of its use is sufficient for ISIS to accomplish its goal.
“The intent of a dirty bomb is to cause panic with the fear of the radioactivity,” he said. “But that may be more difficult to do if governments can quickly confirm that the amount of radioactivity involved is not a threat to anybody (even though) that in itself is problematic when there’s so much distrust on the subject of radiation risks.”
The letter to the U.N. came a day after Iraqi officials had confirmed that ISIS also had taken control of a disused chemical weapons factory which was said to house expended artillery shells with residue of the poison gas, Sarin.
In talking about ISIS’ latest claim of having sufficient radioactive and biological weapons stockpiles, Australia’s foreign minister, Bishop, told The Australian that such information is “worrying” to NATO and other members of the Australian Group.
It’s been almost a year since ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced creation of the Islamic State which is subject to an extreme interpretation of Shariah law. The conquered territory includes portions of north and northeastern Syria and much of the Sunni-dominated western regions of Iraq.