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Al Qaeda Aide: Radiation Bomb in Works

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By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 23, 2002; Page A04

The top al Qaeda lieutenant captured in Pakistan told U.S. interrogators Sunday that Osama bin Laden's terrorist network has worked on developing a radiation bomb, a senior administration official said yesterday.

Abu Zubaida, 31, who before his capture last month served since November as military field director for bin Laden's terrorist network, also told CIA and FBI interrogators over the weekend that al Qaeda personnel "know how to do it," the official said.

Because the Palestinian had been serving as a contact point with terrorist network members in Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East, his information "is being taken seriously," the official said.

Such a radiation weapon would involve using radioactive material with a chemical explosive. Although the weapon would not create a nuclear explosion, it could spread radioactive materials over a wide area, causing panic rather than mass fatalities.

Zubaida, who was seriously wounded when captured, is being questioned at an undisclosed location, said to be inside Pakistan. Last Friday, financial institutions in the northeastern and mid-Atlantic states were put on alert by the FBI after Zubaida told interrogators that al Qaeda had been planning terrorist attacks against them.

One senior intelligence analyst described Zubaida yesterday as "hard core" and said it was "extremely important to realize that he may be trying to deceive and cause confusion."

But another senior administration official aware of Zubaida's statements, which were first reported last night by CBS News, cautioned, "We should not overreact, but also not discount it as disinformation."

2002 The Washington Post Company

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