Disturbing reports out of Eastern Europe indicate recent attempts by criminal gangs to sell radioactive material to ISIS and other Muslim extremists in the Middle East.
According to a recent report in the Associated Press, local authorities working with the FBI have interrupted four attempts in the past five years by Moldovan gangs with suspected Russian connections that sought to sell radioactive material to Muslim extremists.
The most recent case occurred this past February when a smuggler offered to sell a huge cache of cesium, a deadly chemical that could be used in a dirty bomb. The amount was enough to contaminate several city blocks. The seller specifically sought out a buyer from ISIS.
Moldova has a high level of poverty and is one of the poorest nations in Europe. Criminal organizations, some with ties to the former KGB, are running a “thriving black market in nuclear materials,” according to the report.
While the operations were successful in preventing the arms from changing hands, criminal masterminds and kingpins behind the transactions escaped and quickly returned to smuggling nuclear materials.
Moldovan Police and authorities claim that due to the breakdown in cooperation between Russia and the West, it is extremely difficult to track smugglers who are attempting to move parts of Russia’s vast store of radioactive materials. It is assumed that already a large quantity of such materials have made their way to the black market.
“We can expect more of these cases,” said Constantin Malic, a Moldovan police officer who investigated all four cases. “As long as the smugglers think they can make big money without getting caught, they will keep doing it.”
Moldovan investigators are worried that the suspects who fled didn’t hold on to the bulk of the nuclear materials that were in their possession. The various groups often pursue buyers who are enemies of the West. ISIS has already made clear its ambition to use weapons of mass destruction.
The Kurdish Army reported in August that ISIS has already used Mustard Sulfur gas, against its soldiers. The Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs also said that ISIS carried out an attack with “weaponized chlorine” in January. The Ministry sited four other occasions in which ISIS has used chemical weapons already in 2015. A recent New York Times article also cited that these same chemical weapons were being used in attacks against civilian populations as well.