CIA Says Al Qaeda Ready to Use Nukes; Also Sees Terrorists with Chemical, Biological Weapons

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Byline: Bill Gertz, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Al Qaeda terrorists and related groups are set to use chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in deadly strikes, according to a new CIA report.

"Al Qaeda's goal is the use of [chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons] to cause mass casualties," the CIA stated in an internal report produced last month.

"However, most attacks by the group - and especially by associated extremists - probably will be small-scale, incorporating relatively crude delivery means and easily produced or obtained chemicals, toxins or radiological substances," the report said.

Islamist extremists linked to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden "have a wide variety of potential agents and delivery means to choose from for chemical, biological and radiological or nuclear (CBRN) attacks," said the four-page report titled "Terrorist CBRN: Materials and Effects."

The unclassified report was produced by the CIA's intelligence directorate, and a copy of it was obtained by The Washington Times.

The report identifies several deadly toxins and chemicals that al Qaeda could use to conduct the attacks, including nerve gases, germ and toxin weapons anthrax and ricin, and radiological dispersal devices, also known as "dirty bombs."

Disclosure of the CIA report comes as the agency is under fire over its reports on Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, none of which has been uncovered. Several lawmakers from both parties, including Sens. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, and John McCain, Arizona Republican, have called for hearings into the intelligence about Iraq that the Bush administration received.

In the latest report, the CIA said terrorist success would depend on planners' technical expertise. However, one likely goal of any attempted attack would be "panic and disruption," the agency stated.

Several groups of al Qaeda tried to conduct "poison plot" attacks in Europe using chemicals and toxins in assassinations and small-scale attacks, the CIA said.

"These agents could cause hundreds of casualties and widespread panic if used in multiple, simultaneous attacks," the report said.

Also, al Qaeda is developing bombs with radioactive material from industrial or medical facilities, and an al Qaeda document obtained in Afghanistan revealed that the group had sketched out a crude device capable of causing a nuclear blast, the report said.

"Osama bin Laden's operatives may try to launch conventional attacks against the nuclear industrial infrastructure of the United States in a bid to cause contamination, disruption and terror," the report stated.

Al Qaeda's plans for chemical arms were revealed in a document obtained in summer 2002 that "indicates the group has crude procedures for making mustard agent, sarin and VX," the report said.

Mustard is a blistering agent, and sarin and VX are nerve agents that can kill humans in small amounts.

The report also states that Mohamed Atta, ringleader of the September 11 attacks, and Zacarias Moussaoui, who is on trial in Virginia on charges related to the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, studied methods of delivering biological weapons.

Both men "expressed interest in crop dusters, raising our concern that al Qaeda has considered using aircraft to disseminate [biological warfare] agents," the report said. …