Five people suffering serious burns were hospitalized in West New Delhi this week from contact with radioactive material in a Delhi scrap market identified as Cobalt-60 which may be used for making a dirty bomb. Indian police cordoned off the 200 market stores and sealed nearby establishments up to a one-kilometer radius. Scrap dealer Deepak Jain and his helpers lost consciousness when they cut a piece of scrap metal. A white fluid oozed out causing the burns, Jain's hair fell out and within minutes his skin turned black. His workers suffered and nausea.
All five are battling for their lives in hospital, setting off a security scare in the Indian capital, with prime minister Manmohan Singh briefed on the incident before leaving for Washington to attend the nuclear security summit which opened Monday, April 12.
Nuclear scientists from the Baba Atomic Research Center and Narora Atomic Power Plant identified the material and are working around the clock to investigate its source.
debkafile's sources report that German chancellor Angela Merkel has asked to talk with Obama about the dirty bomb terrorist threat when they meet Tuesday.
Cobalt-60 is used in radiotherapy for treating cancer and welding steel. A US report last year recommended monitoring this material along with Caesium-137, Strontium-90 and Plutonium to effectively counter nuclear terrorism. Unlike a nuclear bomb, a dirty bomb does not involve nuclear fission and can be used like a conventional weapon.
Ahead of the Washington conference, US president Barack Obama called nuclear terror "the single biggest threat to US security, short term, medium and long-term."
The day before the conference, the Indian prime minister met Obama and tackled him about Pakistan's inaction against Muslim terrorists and exhorted him to jointly combat terror emanating from Pakistan as the most dangerous source of potential nuclear terror. According to debkafile's military and intelligence sources, the Indian and US leaders failed to agree on whether Pakistan's nuclear arsenal was sufficiently secure. Indian leaders as well as their military and intelligence advisers have repeatedly warned Washington that al Qaeda and Taliban were moving in on Pakistan's nuclear facilities through their deep penetration of Pakistan's intelligence service and may soon be in position to take over.
In his previous conversations with Obama, Singh reported that Israeli intelligence shared India's assessment of the Pakistani nuclear hazard.
After his interview with the Indian prime minister, Obama discussed nuclear security with Pakistani prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, who also arrived for the summit. The US president said Islamabad must do more to combat the terrorists infiltrating India for terrorist attacks.
Pakistani officials said later that Gillani assured the US president that Pakistani takes nuclear security seriously and appropriate safeguards are in place. They reported that the US president said he was satisfied with those measures, but this was not confirmed by US administration sources.