Germany has denied reports that Paris attack suspect Salah Abdeslam, who was captured in Brussels, had documents related to its Juelich nuclear research center.
The denial came from a spokeswoman from Germany’s domestic intelligence agency (BfV), who said, “This is not right…We have no information about this. Our president Maassen never talked to any members of parliament.”
Hans-Georg Maassen is the chief of the intelligence agency.
RND Cites “Sources”
While not revealing names, RND states that the sources of their information are members of a parliamentary committee with which Maassen spoke in March. That committee is responsible for monitoring Germany’s domestic and foreign intelligence agencies, the BfV and the BND, and it often calls upon members of those two agencies to come before it.
The sources stated that Maassen told the committee he learned about the documents from Belgian authorities, who reportedly found the documents in Abdeslam’s apartment following his arrest and detainment.
RND also had some details about the documents found, stating they were articles on the Center, printed out from the internet, and photographs of the Juelich Center Chairman Wolfgang Marquardt.
The Juelich Center lies about 20 miles from the German-Belgian border and once housed a nuclear reactor, known as FRJ-2. In 2006, the reactor was shut down and dismantled, and the facility now stores nuclear waste.
That same year, the Juelich Research Center was founded on the site, employing about 4,600 in the fields of physics, biology, medicine, biology, and engineering for research in areas of health, energy, and environment.
The Center issued a statement this week, indicating that it was in contact with German security authorities and that no threat or danger was indicated.
The Man With The Documents
Abdeslam, the 26-year old supposed “holder of the documents,” was born and grew up in Belgium. He was arrested on March 18 in the Molenbeek district of Brussels for his part in the Paris attacks last November. Four days after his arrest, suicide bombers hit the Brussels airport and a metro train, leaving 32 people dead. The only surviving member of that trio is now in jail.
Concerns About “Nuclear Designs” Of Terrorists
Even though the Juelich Center no longer houses a reactor, the possibility that terrorists are targeting nuclear facilities the world over is a growing concern. Nuclear material in the hands of such terrorists has been a continual point of discussion among world leaders, given that, in many countries, such material is only loosely secured.
Since 2009, global summits with the goal of reducing the amount of nuclear materials – enriched uranium and separated plutonium – has been an important focus. Terrorists have the capability of turning these materials into nuclear devices if they were to gain access to them.
Whether reports of the existence of Juelich documents are true or not, the issues that such reports raise about security are real.
The Blame Game In Belgium
The Paris attacks and the more recent Brussels airport attack have brought out the critics all over the EU. Many claim that the 28 member countries of the EU continue to operate separately and without the kind of cooperation that could provide better intelligence. Many of the intelligence agencies within countries are de-centralized and operating as separate entities.
This problem was brought home when President Erdogan of Turkey claimed that he warned intelligence authorities in Belgium that Ibrahim el Bakraoui, one of the airport bombing suspects now deceased, was a danger.
Following the Brussels airport bombings, a bit of a political row began, ending with the resignation of the chief of the Belgian Federal Transport Agency, Laurent Ledoux. In parting statements, he complained that he had requested additional funding for airport security but was denied by Transportation Minister Jacqueline Galant. He called for her to resign too.
Neither resignation will resolve the current security and intelligence problems.
Toward Greater Security And Cooperative Intelligence
Whether Abdeslam had the documents or not, the discussion has now shifted to how intelligence agencies across the globe and within their own countries can cooperate more effectively in identifying and tracking potential terrorists. Such discussions are necessary and welcome among world leaders.
[Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images]