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[cdn-nucl-l] Nuclear scientists possibly involved with chemical weapons
Posted on the UK Guardian Unlimited on November 29, 2001 and at:
Not a link to the nuclear community that we want...
Pakistani nuclear scientists questioned over chemical weapons
Two men held again over links to Taliban
Rory McCarthy in Kabul
Thursday November 29, 2001
Pakistani investigators said last night they were interrogating two nuclear
scientists about suspicions that they helped Osama bin Laden develop chemical
weapons using anthrax.
The New York Times said that an office used by the men in Kabul contained
documents about the history of anthrax and a Pentagon programme to immunise the
US military against anthrax attacks.
Also in the office were plans for building a balloon and what appeared to be a
rocket, as well as gas masks and material from militant Islamic groups. The
newspaper said the balloon diagrams seemed to show a method of dispersing a
chemical or biological agent from the air.
Pakistani officials said they had no direct evidence that the two scientists
were working on anthrax.
It is the second time in a month that Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Abdul
Majid, both retired scientists who worked on Pakistan's nuclear programme, have
been questioned. After leaving Pakistan's Atomic Energy Commission, they set up
an aid agency which operated inside Afghanistan and had close contacts with the
Dr Mahmood's family has admitted he met Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban's
supreme leader, on several occasions. Pakistani officials have said he also met
Bin Laden at least twice.
According to Pakistani intelligence officials, the two men avoided some
questions and hid facts during the first round of interrogation in late
The men were arrested a second time because of new information from US sources
in Afghanistan, which included detail about the men's links with the Taliban's
agriculture ministry, which US officials suspect was involved in researching
chemical weapons including anthrax.
General Rashid Qureshi, spokesman for the military regime, said only that the
two men were suspected of violating service rules that apply to government
scientists after their retirement, and of violating travel restrictions. There
was no evidence to link them to the US anthrax cases.
Dr Mahmood's mother, Fazi lat Bibi, lodged a petition at the Lahore high court
yesterday to demand her son's release. She pressed the court not to allow
Pakistani intelligence officers to hand the men to another country or a foreign
Dr Mahmood, 63, designed Pakistan's first plutonium-producing nuclear plant at
Khushab, a heavy-water reactor near Lahore which reportedly can produce enough
plutonium for five bombs a year. He was forced to retire in 1998 after he
criticised moves by the Pakistan government towards signing the comprehensive
test ban treaty.
He set up an organisation called Ummah Tameer-e-Nau, the Reconstruction of the
Islamic Community, which raised money to develop Taliban-held areas of
Afghanistan and built a flour mill near Kandahar. He was last in Afghanistan in