Two European Nuclear Scientists Arrested as Al-Qaeda Suspects

Looking into the story, I quickly learned that the charges against the “mild-mannered, deeply religious” French Algerian were stunning. Authorities say Dr. Adlene Hicheur and his 25-year-old brother Halim, also a nuclear scientist, had provided al-Qaeda with data on terrorism targets including the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva. That facility, located underground on the Swiss-French border, is not your average nuclear facility. It is a 17-mile underground tunnel track where scientists are trying to create anti-matter by smashing atoms together. The results, the scientists hope, will create mini black holes and allow scientists to further explore theories about what happened after the Big Bang created the universe 14 billion years ago. Throw terrorists into that mix and a lot could go wrong.

It was at the Collider that Dr. Adlene Hicheur has spent the last six years working as an independent contractor for the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). "We can confirm that Adlene Hicheur was a member of the experimental collaboration at CERN,” a spokesman for CERN told the press. Equally alarming and according to the Daily Mail, the younger Hicheur brother “carries out research at similar high-security scientific institutions around Europe.” This includes a top-secret nuclear research center in England called the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

French authorities have been watching the brothers for the past 18 months. According to Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux, the decision to arrest the Hicheurs came after email correspondences between at least one of the brothers and known AQIM operatives had been intercepted by French intelligence agents. “According to European intelligence sources, MI5 had been warned that the suspects ‘are outstanding scientists who had been honing their techniques in nuclear fusion across the world,’” says the Daily Mail.

Both brothers are internationally known and respected scientists with access to top-secret nuclear facilities throughout Europe. To those who knew the brothers personally, the news came as a blow. "They were held out to young people here as an example of what you could achieve, whatever your background," a local youth worker from the brothers’ French town of Vienne told an Indian newspaper, the Siasat Daily. "There is a state of shock at what has happened and some anger,” the worker said.

Angry or not, this story is not something anyone should find easy to ignore.