LONDON- Many Americans have been concerned about the possibility of a terrorist attack somewhere in the free world. In fact, it was recently reported that intelligence sources believe groups such as al Qaeda are reconstituting and planning another terrorist attack likely on the United States or one of our allies.
That is why a seizure at London’s Heathrow Airport in England of several kilograms of uranium has raised alarm bells. According to the Daily Mail, the material could be used in a dirty bomb and arrived in the country on a flight from Oman in the Middle East in late December.
It is reported the shipment was addressed to an Iranian-linked firm in the United Kingdom. While the uranium was not described as weapons grade and as such couldn’t be used in a larger nuclear device, aka a thermo-nuclear weapon, the Mail reported. One source told the outlet, “The package contained kilos of uranium—but it was not weapons grade.”
That aside, investigators in Britain are looking into whether the materials might be used for an improvised nuclear device, otherwise known as a “dirty bomb.”
Such a device, also referred to in come circles as a “suitcase nuke” could be easily deployed in a high population area and is described as a “nightmare scenario” in counter-terrorism circles. Such a device combines conventional explosives with nuclear materials to spread lethal radioactive materials throughout the target area.
The package originated in Pakistan and arrived at London’s Heathrow Airport on Dec. 29 aboard an Oman Air passenger jet, sources told The Sun. Thus far, no arrests have been made in the case.
An unnamed source told The Sun that there is “overwhelming concern over what the Iranians living here wanted with non-disclosed unclear material.” London has a rather substantial Muslim population.
Yet another unnamed source said, “The race is on to trace everyone involved with this rogue non-manifested package. Security bosses are treating this with the seriousness it deserves. Protocol was not followed and this is now an anti-terror operation.”
The nuclear material was picked up by specialist scanners as it was being transported to a freight shed, authorities said. Once discovered, the material was isolated by Border Force agents in a radioactive room, and as soon as the contents were discovered to be uranium, counter-terrorism police specialists were called into action.
Metropolitan Police told MailOnline: “We can confirm officers from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command were contacted by Border Force colleagues at Heathrow after a very small amount of contaminated material was identified after routine screening within a package incoming to the UK on 29 December 2022.”
Commander Richard Smith said: “I want to reassure the public that the amount of contaminated material was extremely small and has been assessed by experts as posing no threat to the public. Although our investigation remains ongoing, from our inquiries so far, it does not appear to be linked to any direct threat.”
Smith continued: “As the public would expect, however, we will continue to follow up on all available lines of enquiry to ensure this is definitely the case. However, it does highlight the excellent capability we and our partners have in place to monitor our ports and borders in order to keep the public safe from any potential threats to their safety and security that might be coming into the UK.”
Smith noted that no arrests have been made this far and noted officers continue to work with other agencies in order to fully investigate the uranium discovery. He said they would ensure that there is no risk to the public.
“The material has been identified as being contaminated with uranium,” Smith said.
MailOnline reached out to Home Office for comment, however a spokesman said, “We do not comment on live investigations.”
Meanwhile, Harnish De Bretton-Gordon, former commander of the UK’s nuclear defense regiment warned that “uranium can give off very high levels of poisonous radiation. It could be used in a dirty bomb. He noted that “the good news is the system worked and it has been interdicted.”
Security officials in Britain have long warned about the possibility of a dirty bomb, going back to 2003. At that time, the then head of MI5 said it was “only a matter of time” before either a dirty bomb or chemical weapons attack would be launched on a major Western city.
Eliza Manningham- Buller said that intelligence reports suggested so-called “renegade scientists” were cooperating with terrorist groups to provide information necessary to create such weapons.
“My conclusion, based on the intelligence we have received, is that we are faced with a realistic possibility of some form of unconventional attack that could include chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear attack,” she said.
“Sadly, given the widespread proliferation of the technical knowledge to construct these weapons, it will be only a matter of time before a crude version of a CBRN is launched on a major Western city.”
In 2004, British security forces arrested Dhiren Barot, a Muslim convert who hatched a plot to assemble and use dirty bombs in the UK and US to use against members of the public. He was jailed for 30 years.
Despite concerns over the possibility of a dirty bomb, a website sponsored by the Home Office in Britain downplays the threat.
“A UK attack plot using a radiological weapon is highly unlikely because there are significant challenges in acquiring suitable radioactive sources, which are subject to controls.”
Meanwhile last year, a former Washington, DC official, Robert Joseph told MailOnline that Iran is indeed a nuclear weapons state and has enough uranium to construct one, possibly two nuclear bombs.
“The International Atomic Energy Agency has documented that Iran has 60% of enriched uranium, enough for at least one if not two bombs.,” Joseph said. “We have been saying for years ‘they’re approaching this breakout point and we’ve really got to negotiate with them.’ They’re here.”
Joseph was widely credited with convincing former Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi to surrender his nuclear weapons, having acted as the chief negotiator. At that time, Iran was “regularly testing ballistic missiles, and they are seeking to get enough uranium that they are able to produce a weapon.”
Want to make sure you never miss a story from Law Enforcement Today? With so much “stuff” happening in the world on social media, it’s easy for things to get lost.