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DoD Guarding Against Possible Bin Laden 'Dirty Bomb'

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 4, 2001 – "It looks like they're covering a lot of ground that has been covered before," Pentagon spokesperson Victoria Clarke said today, commenting on recent reports that terrorist Osama bin Laden has a radiological bomb.

"We're not aware of anything new or different" concerning the possibility that bin Laden has obtained a so-called "dirty bomb," Clarke told reporters at the Pentagon. Such a weapon is made by combining radiological waste -- like spent nuclear fuel rod material with conventional explosives.

While not possessing the awesome power of a conventional nuclear device, officials note, a radiological bomb can spread intense radiation over a wide area.

DoD officials have noted that U.S. forces on the ground in Afghanistan have been searching more than 40 sites including laboratories suspected of producing nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

While samples of the material collected from Afghanistan have been forwarded to U.S. government facilities for testing, Clarke said the results of the tests are not available.

Officials have noted that bin Laden, the chief of the Al Qaeda global terrorist network, has often spoken of his wish to obtain weapons of mass destruction to be used against his enemies. U.S. and coalition forces are now searching for bin Laden and other terrorists holed up in Afghanistan.

"Bin Laden has made clear his desire to have such weapons, and so we need to be very attentive, we need to be very concerned about that, just as we are concerned about the spread of weapons of mass destruction, in general," Clarke said.

Yesterday in Afghanistan, U.S. and coalition forces flew 130 sorties, mostly over Kandahar and Jalalabad, Clarke said. Targets included cave and tunnel complexes.

Clarke said humanitarian daily ration deliveries continued, with more than 17,000 rations dispersed Dec. 3. Commando Solo missions also continued as did leaflet drops.

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