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
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."