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article imageMoldova arrests gang suspected of smuggling uranium from Russia

By AFP     Dec 11, 2014 in World

Moldova has detained seven people suspected of smuggling uranium-238 on a passenger train from Russia, a highly radioactive substance that can be used to make a dirty bomb, Interpol said on Thursday.

After a nearly year-long investigation, Moldovan police also seized 200 grams (7 ounces) of uranium-238, one kilogramme (2.2 pounds) of mercury and 1 kg of "an unidentified radioactive material," Interpol said in a statement.

"The uranium, smuggled into the country by train, has a value of 1.6 million euros ($2 million)," the statement said.

"The radioactive substance can be used in the production of dirty bombs, which could cause massive destruction in the hands of a terrorist group."

The sting operation was carried out in the capital Chisinau and two other towns in cooperation with Interpol and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The arrested suspects, aged between 32 and 75, belonged to a criminal ring and had knowledge of radioactive substances, the global police organisation said.

While radioactive uranium-238 is not suitable for a nuclear weapon, it can be used to make a dirty bomb, a conventional explosive that contains radioactive material.

Moldovan police said earlier this week they believed uranium-238 had been brought to Moldova from Russia on a regular passenger train.

Authorities nabbed the gang after an undercover policeman bought five grams of a suspicious substance for $15,000 last week.

The substance turned out to be radioactive uranium-238.

The police are still looking for four other people linked to the investigation.

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