Was al-Qaeda planning a nuclear attack???
A modern day, scary story...
A brilliant young nuclear scientist who was arrested in France last week over alleged links to Al Qaeda had worked for a top-secret British nuclear research centre.
Last night fears were growing that Dr Adlene Hicheur – who was a researcher for the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire for a year – could have been planning a nuclear attack in the UK.
The French government said yesterday that the arrest of Hicheur, 32, and his brother Dr Halim Hicheur, 25, could have averted a terrorist atrocity.
They were seized after an 18-month investigation by French anti-terrorist police hours before Adlene Hicheur was due to travel to the laboratory where he now works at, CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research near Geneva.
Halim Hicheur carries out research at similar high-security scientific institutions around Europe.
The brothers’ council flat was stormed at 6am last Thursday by eight masked officers from the elite Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence (CDII), the French equivalent of MI5, and 20 armed riot officers.
With almost no noise, a spearhead unit rushed up the concrete steps leading to the cramped flat in Vienne, South-East France. A battering ram was used to break the lock and the warning ‘Armed police!’ shouted.
Large-calibre machine pistols and other weapons were aimed at those inside the flat, including the brothers’ parents and siblings.
Secret agents had been monitoring the brothers’ movements, and all their phone calls, text messages and emails were being bugged ‘in real time and minute by minute’, according to a security source.
‘It was like we were sitting on their shoulders. We knew exactly what they were saying.’
The source said that Adlene Hicheur had been ‘pinpointing nuclear targets’ but would not be more specific.
The scientists were being questioned last night at the maximum-security headquarters of the CDII on the outskirts of Paris while MI5 began trying to piece together their movements and contacts in Britain.
French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said both men posed such a serious threat that he had halted the long-running surveillance operation and ordered their ‘immediate’ arrest.
‘The investigation will reveal what were the objectives in France or elsewhere of these men,’ he said. ‘Maybe the inquiry will reveal that, thanks to these two arrests, the worst could have been avoided.’
Mr Hortefeux said the apparently mild-mannered, highly religious brothers were a ‘high-level threat’ who were suspected of ‘criminal activities related to a terrorist group’.
Last night, MI5 was understood to be examining their British links amid fears that they were plotting to launch a nuclear attack in the UK. A spokesman for the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory refused to release details about Adlene Hicheur’s time there.
Fears were growing that the men may have been in a position to smuggle nuclear material out of a secure lab for use in a ‘dirty bomb’ attack, or to plant explosives inside the sensitive facility.
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.
‘There are genuine fears that they were locating terrorist targets, especially in countries like France and Britain. Their level of expertise in nuclear fusion was improving all the time, leading to the terrifying scenario of a terrorist nuclear attack.’