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Crime syndicate selling weapons-grade uranium to buyers in North Africa

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09/28/2011 10:14 AM
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Crime syndicate selling weapons-grade uranium to buyers in North Africa
Investigators following up on a nuclear sting in eastern Europe suspect that a crime syndicate was trying to sell weapons-grade uranium to buyers in North Africa. Officials in Moldova, a former Soviet republic, told The Associated Press that 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of highly enriched uranium remains in criminal hands and is probably in another country. Though that is a fraction of what is needed for a bomb, the investigation has provided fresh evidence of a black market in nuclear material probably taken from poorly secured stockpiles in the former Soviet Union. U.S. authorities have been aiding the Moldovans in the international search for a Russian believed to be the ringleader of the smuggling operation. They also are searching for a North African man who they believe attempted to buy the uranium in Moldova before fleeing the country. Neither suspect has been publicly identified. The North Africa link, though, has worried officials because terrorist groups such as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb are in the region. The concern is raised in a report prepared by the staff of Sen. Richard Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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