Al Qaeda has nuclear ambitions, not capabilities: US expert


Rome : Al Qaeda has become the world’s “first terrorist nuclear power without demonstrating possession of a single nuclear weapon,” according to US expert Brian Jenkins.

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A senior advisor at the US think-tank, the Rand Corporation, Jenkins was commenting Wednesday on remarks made this week by US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief, Michael Hayden, that Al Qaeda is “the CIA’s top nuclear concern.”

“The CIA director based his assessment on intentions rather than capabilities,” Jenkins, author of a new book “Will Terrorists Go Nuclear?”, said in an interview with Rome-based news agency Adnkronos International (AKI).

He compared the threat posed by Al Qaeda to the situation in Washington-branded “rogue states”, Iran and North Korea.

“North Korea has nuclear weapons. Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions are backed up by a large contingent of nuclear scientists and an extensive network of nuclear facilities,” he noted.

“The CIA, however, considers Al Qaeda the bigger threat because it assumes that if Al Qaeda had nuclear weapons, it would be most likely to use them,” Jenkins told AKI.

Jenkins recalled how Osama bin Laden tried to acquire nuclear material when he was still in Sudan in the 1990s, and that the Al Qaeda leader spoke with two nuclear scientists from Pakistan shortly before the Sep 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Documents later discovered in Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan indicated interest in nuclear weapons, Jenkins said.

“But insofar as we know, Al Qaeda has not acquired nuclear weapons or fissile material necessary to build them. And the captured documents do not indicate that Al Qaeda knows how to make a nuclear bomb,” he said.

As for the possibility that Al Qaeda may have recently obtained a nuclear capability, Jenkins replied: “Probably not enough.”

However, he noted how while Al Qaeda’s operational capabilities were being “degraded” by the combined action of intelligence services and law enforcement organisations around the world, its so-called media jihad was “increasing in volume and sophistication”.

“Al Qaeda appears to have discovered that by claims, threats and broadcasting religious rulings granting it the ‘right’ to kill millions of infidels, it can excite its followers, who embellish its nuclear fantasies, and create nuclear terror among its foes,” Jenkins said.