Report: Al-Qaida has obtained tactical nuclear explosives
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service
Al-Qaida have possessed tactical nuclear weapons for about six years, the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported Sunday.
The Arabic daily reported that sources close to Al-Qaida said Osama bin Laden's group bought the nuclear weapons from Ukrainian scientists who were visiting Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 1998.
The report has not been confirmed.
However, the sources said Al-Qaida doesn't intend to use the weapons against American forces in Muslim countries, "due to the serious damage" it could cause. But that decision is subject to change, the sources said, if Al-Qaida "is dealt a serious blow that won't leave it any room to maneuver."
The possibility of detonating the nuclear devices on American soil was also raised in the report, although no details were given.
The sources were quoted as saying that Al-Qaida actvists have hidden the weapons - each of which is about the size of a suitcase - in "a safe place."
Kandahar was the stronghold of the Taliban, which kept Afghanistan under tight religious restrictions until the United States attacked it in retaliation for the September 2001 attacks.
In the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, serious concern arose in the West over the possibility that nuclear technology and weapons could spread to other groups, in part due to the difficult economic situation in the former communist lands. Several reports of the nuclear arsenal in the former Soviet Union in the 1990s indicated that a few dozen nuclear explosive devices had disappeared. One of the theories was that the devices disappeared in Ukraine, which claims that it handed over all its nuclear weapons to Russia.