An intensive secret hunt is underway in the United States and Canada since mid-October for an al Qaeda operative known to be at large with enough radioactive material for a “dirty bomb” strike in a North American city.
This is revealed by DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s exclusive counter-terrorism sources.
A warrant for his arrest in both countries has been signed for a Saudi national called Adnan Al Shukri Jumah, aged 27, student of nuclear engineering employed at the 5-megawatt nuclear reactor for research at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. He was under surveillance when in early October, he stopped attending class at the university and thought to be at home. His disappearance was not remarked until a few days later when a large quantity of radioactive material was missed from the university’s nuclear reactor.
American and Canadian investigators suspect Al Shukri Jumah has the bomb assembled ready for detonation. Since he gave his watchers the slip, Washington and Ottawa have called in large reinforcements for the race to catch him before it is too late.
A number of informed counter-terrorism sources told DEBKA-Net-Weekly that American authorities first heard about Al Shukri Jumah’s terror mission on al Qaeda’s behalf from Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, the senior operative of the fundamentalist network captured at his home in Karachi one night in March. Sheikh Mohammed described the wanted man as a one-man cell trained to build radiological bombs capable of environmental contamination from scratch. From Sheikh Mohammed, US counter-terror agencies learned for the first time about the single-cell al Qaeda chemical, biological or nuclear strike-teams consisting of lone operatives trained to operate solo. The experts had previously assumed that each unconventional weapons cell numbered several members and was supported by broad logistical backup crews.
Explaining how Al Shukri Jumah fooled his watchers, our sources say he kept himself to himself at all times, had no friends, kept strictly to his study and work schedule at the reactor and habitually left the facility at the same time as his colleagues. His “normal” behavior, the sources said, apparently gave him entry to the place where dangerous materials were stored without raising suspicion. Bit by bit, he smuggled out enough radioactive material to build the dirty bomb at home.
His disappearance raises the following questions in the minds of senior investigators, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terrorism sources:
Why were there no agents observing the subject inside the reactor? These sources did not disclose which security agencies were responsible for the surveillance.
Who gave Al Shukri Jumah a Saudi Arabian under suspicion access to the reactor? And how is it that no one noticed increasing amounts of nuclear materials were disappearing over a period of months?
How was Al Shukri Jumah able to give his watchers the slip?
Was he tipped off by an inside source in the US or Canadian security services?
A senior source close to the hunt says: “These points certainly need clarifying. But catching this man before disaster strikes is paramount.”