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Dirty Bomb Threat AP news story February 9, 2004

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  Story last updated at 6:48 a.m. Monday, February 9, 2004
U.S. official warns of 'dirty bomb' threat
Associated Press
JAKARTA, INDONESIA--Terrorists have the will and some of the expertise to make a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapon and are "doing everything they can" to acquire the materials, the U.S. State Department's top anti-terror official said in an interview with the Associated Press.

Cofer Black, U.S. ambassador at large for anti-terrorism, told the AP that al-Qaida is still dangerous even though more than two-thirds of its leaders from the time of the Sept. 11 attacks have been killed or arrested.

Speaking at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Jakarta on Saturday, Black said he and other U.S. officials are "killing ourselves" to make sure terrorists don't get a so-called "dirty bomb" or other unconventional weapons, but the threat remains.

"We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that a number of these groups, if they had it, would use it," said Black, who accompanied U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to an Asia-Pacific anti-terror summit on the Indonesian island of Bali last week.

"They've got the will. A lot of these guys seek the expertise, and there's a reasonable amount of that out there, but what you're really looking for is the coming together of all the factors: the will, the expertise and the materials," he said.

Authorities fear terrorists could create a dirty bomb, which would use conventional explosives to disperse a plume of radioactive dust over a city. Unlike a nuclear weapon, a dirty bomb would not require highly enriched uranium or plutonium, which are hard to obtain. The materials could be a lower-grade isotope, such as those used in medicine or research.

Black's comments follow recent revelations that the father of Pakistan's nuclear program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, sold equipment related to centrifuges, used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons, to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

Experts say the black market that enabled those countries to obtain nuclear weapons technology might have supplied bomb components or plans to terrorists.

"If al-Qaida were to put together a radiological device," Black said, "they're going to use it."


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