According to reports from the UK's Daily Telegraph and Vancouver Sun, a number of leaked diplomatic cables warn that the terrorist group Al-Qaeda may be on the verge of producing nuclear weapons after securing radioactive materials and rogue scientists to help carry out their deadly mission.
From documents released by WikiLeaks, a "leading atomic regulator" has warned that "the world stands on the brink of a 'nuclear 9/11,'" the Sun reports.
Security briefings suggest that jihadi groups are also close to producing "workable and efficient" biological and chemical weapons that could kill thousands if unleashed in attacks on the West. Thousands of classified American cables obtained by the WikiLeaks website and passed to The Daily Telegraph detail the international struggle to stop the spread of weapons-grade nuclear, chemical and biological material around the globe.
At a Nato meeting in January 2009, security chiefs briefed member states that al-Qaida was plotting a program of "dirty radioactive IEDs", makeshift nuclear roadside bombs that could be used against British troops in Afghanistan. As well as causing a large explosion, a "dirty bomb" attack would contaminate the area for many years.
The briefings also state that al-Qaida documents found in Afghanistan in 2007 revealed that "greater advances" had been made in bioterrorism than was previously realized. An Indian national security adviser told American security personnel in June 2008 that terrorists had made a "manifest attempt to get fissile material" and "have the technical competence to manufacture an explosive device beyond a mere dirty bomb".
Alerts about the smuggling of nuclear material, sent to Washington from foreign U.S. embassies, document how criminal and terrorist gangs were trafficking large amounts of highly radioactive material across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The alerts explain how customs guards at remote border crossings used radiation alarms to identify and seize cargoes of uranium and plutonium.
The cables also suggest that radioactive materials stolen from Chernobyl have been offered for sale on the black market in Lisbon, Portugal.
Tomihiro Taniguchi, the deputy director general of the IAEA, has privately warned America that the world faces the threat of a "nuclear 9/11" if stores of uranium and plutonium were not secured against terrorists.
But diplomats visiting the IAEA's Austrian headquarters in April 2008 said that there was "no way to provide perimeter security" to its own laboratory because it has windows that leave it vulnerable to break-ins.
Senior British defence officials have raised "deep concerns" that a rogue scientist in the Pakistani nuclear program "could gradually smuggle enough material out to make a weapon", according to a document detailing official talks in London in February 2009.
In addition, the cables also warn of deadly biological pathogens located in Pakistan that may be vulnerable to falling into the wrong hands. Some of these potential weaponized strains include anthrax and avian flu which could easily be dispersed in crowded areas.
Security of the same types of biological weapons located in the United States and Russia may also be susceptible to security breaches. According to the leaked cables, "a growing chorus of voices" at the World Health Assembly have warned of the risk.