The Associated Press dropped a disturbing investigative report on Tuesday evening from Europe’s fringes, where they discovered nuclear smugglers actively seeking extremist groups, including ISIS, as buyers for radioactive material. Authorities have intercepted four attempts in the last five years, with the latest known case, the AP reports, coming “in February this year, when a smuggler offered a huge cache of deadly cesium—enough to contaminate several city blocks—and specifically sought a buyer from [ISIS].”
The criminal black market for dangerous nuclear materials in Moldova is linked to Russian criminal networks some with ties to Russia’s intelligence agency. Here’s more from the AP:
Moldovan police and judicial authorities shared investigative case files with AP in an effort to spotlight how dangerous the nuclear black market has become. They say the breakdown in cooperation between Russia and the West means that it has become much harder to know whether smugglers are finding ways to move parts of Russia’s vast store of radioactive materials — an unknown quantity of which has leached into the black market…
In wiretaps, videotaped arrests, photographs of bomb-grade material, documents and interviews, AP found a troubling vulnerability in the anti-smuggling strategy. From the first known Moldovan case in 2010 to the most recent one in February, a pattern has emerged: Authorities pounce on suspects in the early stages of a deal, giving the ringleaders a chance to escape with their nuclear contraband — an indication that the threat from the nuclear black market in the Balkans is far from under control.
“Moldovan investigators can’t be sure that the suspects who fled didn’t hold on to the bulk of the nuclear materials,” the AP notes, “[n]or do they know whether the groups, which are pursuing buyers who are enemies of the West, may have succeeded in selling deadly nuclear material to terrorists at a time when [ISIS] has made clear its ambition to use weapons of mass destruction.”