November 14, 2003


LYON, France, Nov 13 (AFP) - A representative of al-Qaeda bought enriched uranium capable of being used in a so-called dirty bomb from the Congolese opposition in 2000, according to sworn testimony quoted in a French newspaper Thursday.

An unnamed former soldier from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has told investigators looking into the murders of two Congolese opposition figures in France in December 2000 that he attended a meeting earlier that year at which the uranium was sold, the Lyon-based Le Progres reported.

The man "described a meeting which took place on March 3 in (the German city of) Hamburg between some Congolese men and an Egyptian by the name of Ibrahim Abdul," the newspaper said.

On the other hand, the story says that what was sold were "two bars of enriched Uranium 138." Most likely just a typo, but not credibility-enhancing. This bears further watching.

UPDATE: A reader sends a link to this story -- which I hadn't seen before:

James Astill in Nairobi and Rory Carroll in Johannesburg
Wednesday September 25, 2002
The Guardian

Iraqi agents have been negotiating with criminal gangs in the Democratic Republic of Congo to trade Iraqi military weapons and training for high-grade minerals, possibly including uranium, according to evidence obtained by the Guardian.

It comes as the dossier unveiled by Tony Blair accused Saddam Hussein of trying to buy African uranium to give Iraq's weapons programme a nuclear capability. The dossier did not identify any country allegedly approached by Baghdad but security analysts said the Congo was the likeliest, followed by South Africa.

Hmm. So why all the talk of Niger?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Tom Magure emails:

The excerpts from the National intelligence Estimate that were released in July also mention the Congo:

- Reports indicate Iraq also has sought uranium ore from Somalia and possibly the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

We cannot confirm whether Iraq succeeded in acquiring uranium ore and/or yellowcake from these sources. Reports suggest Iraq is shifting from domestic mining and milling of uranium to foreign acquisition. Link

And for a trip down memory lane, here is a US White Paper from Feb 1998 assessing Saddam's WMD program. Link

A hint, not quite buried all the way down in the second paragraph:

On the basis of the last seven years' experience, the world's experts conclude that enough production components and data remain hidden and enough expertise has been retained or developed to enable Iraq to resume development and production of WMD. They believe Iraq maintains a small force of Scud-type missiles, a small stockpile of chemical and biological munitions, and the capability to quickly resurrect biological and chemical weapons production.

The world's experts! And Clinton believed them! Well, he went on to bomb a pharmaceutical factory, so we know how shaky his grasp of intel was. The alternative view, that not every good faith mistake is a "lie", will never catch on.

Probably not.