Thursday, March 27, 2008

A stash of FARC's uranium found in Columbia

The Columbian military has seized 30 kilos of uranium, said to be owned by FARC rebels [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia] and linked to the e-mails found on the computer of Raúl Reyes after he was killed in Ecuador last month.

According to today's story ("Columbia says it found uranium linked to FARC," Frances Robles, Miami Herald, March 27, 2008), a February 16 e-mail on Reyes's computer discussed a deal involving uranium. Yet, rather than purchasing uranium, FARC might have been trying to sell uranium to a third party for profit.
"Another of the themes is the one on uranium," said a note allegedly written by a man identified as Edgar Tovar to Raúl -- an apparent reference to Reyes, the FARC's No. 2 man.

"There's a man who supplies me with material for the explosive we prepare, and his name is Belisario and he lives in Bogotá," the note reads. "He sent me the samples and the specifications and they are proposing to sell each kilo for two and a half million dollars, and that they supply and we look for someone to sell to, and that the deal should be with a government that can buy a huge amount. They have 50 kilos ready and can sell much more."

The informants, allegedly people close to "Belisario," gave the military samples of the uranium on March 20. Subsequently, they led the military to the rest of the stash in Pasquilla, a district in the Comuna 20 neighborhood of Bogotá.

The uranium in the samples was said to be "impoverished," but armed forces commander Freddy Padilla said at a press conference on Wednesday that further tests were being conducted to indicate just how dangerous the material really is.

On March 20, it was reported in this space (Headland, Romanian rendezvous; Terrorists and arms dealers in Bucharest) that a Romanian website had cited El Espectador as reporting that Raúl Reyes negotiated the purchase of uranium from an agent of the Ukrainian crime syndicate of Semyon Yukovich Mogilevich. It was further alleged that MI6 had contended that the Ukrainians stole the enriched uranium from an insufficiently guarded storage site in Cheyabinsk, in the Ural Mountains.

The apparently degraded state of the uranium found this week, and the nature of the deal with Belisario, lead to questions as to whether the uranium found was part of the same deal that was said to be discussed in Bucharest last month, and whether FARC has an interest in procuring the materials necessary for making a radioactive bomb of its own.

UPDATE: Counterterrorism Blog ("Colombia Announces Find of 66 Pounds of Uranium It Says Linked to FARC," Jonathan Winer) connects the dots to this story:

The information on Reyes's computer led investigators to FARC's cash, stashed in Costa Rica.

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|| headland, 8:25 AM

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