Wolfowitz Says Dirty Bomb Plot Highlights WMD Dangers
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 11, 2002 Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said today the capture of an al Qaeda terrorist highlights the dangers posed by the whole range of weapons of mass destruction.
Speaking on the CBS Early Show and NBC Today Show, Wolfowitz said law enforcement officials captured Abdullah al Muhajir, also known as Jose Padilla, in the early stages of plotting to plant a radiological "dirty bomb" in an American city.
A dirty bomb is conventional explosives surrounded by radioactive material. When the bomb explodes, it spews that material over a wide area in smoke and other particulate matter. The bomb's destructive power depends on the amount, type and size of conventional explosives and radioactive material used.
Wolfowitz said the administration has said many times that the greatest danger facing the United States is "countries that have weapons of mass destruction who work with terrorists." The U.S. State Department lists seven countries that sponsor terrorism: Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Syria and Sudan.
Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden said in the past that the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by his terrorist gang is a religious duty. U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan found evidence that al Qaeda was aggressively pursuing chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear information and material.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said many times that if terror groups get these types of material and launch an attack, the casualty toll would dwarf Sept. 11's.
Wolfowitz said Muhajir started out in Brooklyn and Chicago as a petty criminal. "Somewhere along the way he got converted to being something else," Wolfowitz said. "And out in Pakistan and Afghanistan he was working on plots to do the most horrendous kinds of things in this country."
The deputy secretary said Muhajir's capture is an example of the cooperation between the Defense Department and law enforcement agencies. On June 10, the Justice Department turned Muhajir over to DoD. He is being held in the Navy brig in Charleston, S.C.
Wolfowitz said the terrorist has been classified as an "enemy combatant." The military can hold him "until the end of the conflict," he said. The deputy said Muhajir clearly had associates in the plot, and intelligence officials are interrogating the terrorist to track down those people.