by Ivan Plis, Daily Caller News Foundation
A criminal gang with ties to Russia’s security agency, the FSB, attempted to sell highly destructive nuclear materials to Islamic State, according to a new report.
The Associated Press revealed its investigation Wednesday, saying that over the past five years, the FBI has contributed to four interruptions of the group in Eastern Europe. The organization’s activity has focused on Moldova, the former Soviet republic between Romania and Ukraine.
A wiretap involving a middleman and an informant reportedly clarified the intent behind the attempted sales. Speaking for the dealers themselves, the middleman said, “I really want an Islamic buyer because they will bomb the Americans.”
One of the groups in the cluster under investigation was led by a man named Alexandr Agheenco and nicknamed “the Colonel” by his subordinates. The Moldovan authorities believe that he is an officer in the FSB, Russia’s successor to the Soviet KGB.
If the FSB connection is true, it undermines the Kremlin’s claims that its new campaign of airstrikes in Syria is directed against Islamic State targets.
Moldova has apparently emerged as the epicenter of a thriving and dangerous black market in nuclear weapons. Moldovan investigators teamed up with the FBI to stop the arms dealers, in a strategy that often involved stings in the early stages of a deal, allowing sellers to escape with the contraband. Informants met middlemen for the smugglers in nightclubs, sometimes steeling their nerves with multiple shots of vodka.
The deadliest goods offered for sale included “a huge cache of deadly cesium — enough to contaminate several city blocks.” But the joint Moldovan-FBI investigation only managed to obtain a small vial of less enriched cesium, “not suitable for making a dirty bomb.”
While its prospects are widely dismissed as unlikely, Islamic State has expressed ambitions to acquire a nuclear weapon. In an edition of its online magazine Dabiqthat emerged in late May, it boasted that it could leverage its self-proclaimed province in Pakistan to acquire a nuclear device through “corrupt officials.”
Speaking through a British journalist and hostage, Islamic State floated an elaborate plan to smuggle a weapon overland through the Middle East, North Africa and into Nigeria, where it is then shipped to Colombia and winds up in the United States, where jihadis arrive “with a nuclear bomb in the trunk of their car.”
Several weeks later, the group claimed it possessed enough nuclear material to build a weapon of mass destruction.
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