Russia-linked smugglers have been trying — and may have succeeded — in smuggling deadly radioactive material to Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists, according to the Associated Press.
Investigators in Moldova shared with the AP files concerning four busts over the past five years.
The most recent known case was last February, when a smuggler was looking for a buyer from ISIS to purchase a quantity of cesium, a deadly radioactive material, that AP reported was “enough to contaminate several city blocks.”
One of the gang members told the Moldova undercover agent, whom he thought could sell the radioactive material to the ISIS:
You can make a dirty bomb, which would be perfect for the Islamic State. If you have a connection with them, the business will go smoothly.
The smugglers are criminal gangs, some of which have ties with the Russian intelligence agency.
The Moldovan investigators, who were assisted by the FBI, often smashed the rings after samples of nuclear material had been obtained but before they could catch the ringleaders, who were able to escape with the radioactive material that ISIS wants to wreak more destruction.
The investigators infiltrated into smuggling gangs, using a Mercedes-Benz and high-tech equipment supplied in part by the FBI.
Matthew Bunn, a Harvard University professor who led a secret study for the Clinton administration on the security of Russia’s nuclear arsenal, told AP:
In the age of the Islamic State, it’s especially terrifying to have real smugglers of nuclear bomb material apparently making connections with real buyers.
One bust in 2011 led investigators to a group that was headed by a man whom authorities believe is an officer with what used to be known as the KGB and now is called FSB.
Wiretapped conversations revealed that the gang sought an ISIS buyer “because they will bomb the Americans.”
One of the investigators told AP:
We can expect more of these cases. As long as the smugglers think they can make big money without getting caught, they will keep doing it.