Foreign Affairs

New Evidence Ties Former Soviet Spy’s Death to American Hiroshima

New evidence has come to light that Alexander Litvinenko may have been involved with Islamic terrorists in the preparation of tactical nuclear weapons for use in the jihad against the United States and its NATO allies.

Litvinenko, a former KGB agent, died in London on November 23 after ingesting a microscopic amount of polonium-210.

Investigators have now uncovered the following:

  • Litvinenko was a Muslim convert with reported ties to radical Islam.
  • The former Soviet spy masterminded the smuggling of radioactive material to Zurich in 2000. This finding was corroborated by Mario Scaramella, one of Litvinenko’s business associates.
  • Litvinenko became closely allied with Boris Berezovsky, a Russian billionaire who established close ties with the Chechen leaders, and Chechen leader Ahmed Zakayev. Both men served as pallbearers at the funeral. Several years ago, Berezovsky boasted to the press that the Chechen separatists had acquired a portable nuclear weapon that lacked one "minor" component. That component, Scotland Yard officials now believe, was polonium-210.

In a deathbed statement, Litvinenko blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for the poisoning — an accusation which the Kremlin has vehemently denied.

The denial was supported by the fact that polonium-210 is a rare radiological substance that is man-made by bombarding Bismuth-209 with neutrons within a nuclear reactor. It is expensive to produce and difficult to handle. Polonium-210 is also rare — fewer than four ounces are produced annually. All of the reported production comes from Russian reactors. This amount is purchased annually by the United States, simply to keep the substance from leaking into the black market. Several rogue nations have been suspected of clandestinely producing polonium-210 for nefarious purposes. A quantity was detected in Iran by IAEA inspectors and in North Korea by U. S. airborne samplings.

When Russian officials resorted to nuclear poisoning in the past — including the assassination of two Swiss intelligence officials who were engaged with Russia and South Africa in the nuclear black market — they relied on such readily available radiological substances as cesium-137 in salt form.

According to nuclear expert David Morgan, killing a spy or political dissident with a grain or two of polonium-210 is as ludicrous as shooting a rat with a howitzer. Indeed, if Litvinenko was a victim of radiological assassination, his murder would represent the costliest hit in human history with a price tag of $30 million.

Litvinenko, who was born an orthodox Christian, was a convert to Islam with close ties to the Chechen rebels. His last words consisted of his desire to be buried "according to Muslim tradition."

This wish was not fulfilled. The former spy was buried in a plain wooden coffin from a London mosque but was sealed in a Jacobean oak Garratt casket and laid to rest in Highgate Cemetery — not the day after his death — but on December 7, 17 days after his mysterious demise. The imam refused to allow the casket to enter the mosque because of fears of radiation contamination.

In recent years, considerable attention has been paid to suitcase nukes that were developed by U.S. and Soviet forces during the Cold War. Reliable sources, including Hans Blix of the United Nation, have confirmed that bin Laden purchased several of these devises from the Chechen rebels in 1996. According to Sharif al-Masri and other al Qaeda operatives who have been taken into custody, several of these weapons have been forward deployed to the United States in preparation for al Qaeda’s next attack on American soil.

The neutron source or "triggers" of the reported suitcase nukes are composed of beryllium-9 and polonium-210. When these two elements are combined, the alpha particle is absorbed by the nucleus of the beryllium causing it to decay by emitting a neutron. Such "triggers" were a feature of early nuclear weapons in the U.S. and Soviet stockpiles.

Polonium-210 has a half-life of 138 days, necessitating the replacement of the triggers every six months. For this reason, the suitcase nukes are far from maintenance-free. In addition, the nuclear core of these devises emit a temperature in excess of one hundred degrees Fahrenheit — further exposing the weapons to oxidation and rust. Small wonder that al Qaeda operatives including Adnan el-Shukrijumah, who are spearheading "the American Hiroshima" have received extensive training in nuclear technology.

Polonium-beryllium triggers are packaged in foil packs about the size of a package on sugar on a restaurant table. When the twin foil packages are crushed, the elements mix and the neutrons are emitted. A courier transporting nuclear triggers could have had a mishap causing the packages to rupture and a trail of contamination to occur.

Polonium-210 is a fine powder, easily aerosolized. Litvinenko could have inhaled the powder, or had a grain or two on his fingers when he ate the sushi.

The most probable source of the polonium packets, according to investigators, remains North Korea. The nuclear bomb which was tested by North Korea on October 9, 2006, registered 4.2 on the Richter scale — displaying an explosive yield of five to 15 kilotons. The Bush Administration dismissed the test as a "fizzle." But the explosion matched the yield of a Soviet Small Atomic Munitions Device (SADM), such as a suitcase nuke with a plutonium core.

A dozen associates of Litvinenko have displayed symptoms of polonium poisoning. The list includes Andrei Lugovoi, a former KGB colleague of Litvinenko, who met with the deceased at the Millenium Hotel in London on November 1, 2006, the day Litvinenko became ill; Dimitry Kovtun, Lugovoi’s business associate, who attended that meeting; Mario Scaramella, an Italian security consultant, who had dinner with Litvinenko the evening of November 1 at the Itsu Sushi Restaurant; and Litvinenko’s Russian wife, Marina.

Traces of the lethal substance have been found in Litvinenko’s home in Muswell Hill, two London hotels, and two British Airways 757s.

In an interview with The Independent shortly before the poisoning became public, Scaramella said that Litvinenko had been involved in the smuggling of radioactive material to Zurich. He also said that black market dealings in radioactive isotopes provided Litvinenko with badly need revenue to meet his living expenses.

Litvinenko’s father said that the former Soviet spy had converted to Islam before his death. He told the press: "He [Alexander] said I want to be buried according to Islamic tradition. I said okay son. It will be as you wish. We already have one Muslim in our family. The important thing is to believe in the Almighty. God is one."

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