A nightmare scenario for the West is coming true in a former Soviet republic, where smugglers linked to Russia have radioactive material for sale and are actively seeking Islamic extremists to buy it, according to an AP investigation. In a case in Moldova earlier this year, a smuggler called Valentin Grossu was arrested after selling a sample of radioactive material to an informant he believed was an ISIS representative. Grossu had demanded almost $3 million for enough material to make a devastating "dirty bomb." His arrest came after one of several sting operations carried out by the FBI and Moldovan investigators, the AP reports. Another case involved uranium believed to have come from the Chernobyl reactor, according to Moldovan investigator Constantin Malic.
The sellers were motivated by more than just money: One middleman who tried to sell bomb-grade uranium and blueprints for a dirty bomb to a genuine buyer ranted against the US and stressed that the buyer must come from the Middle East. He escaped as investigators moved in, and Malic says that even those smugglers who were arrested served only short sentences and, in some cases, rejoined smuggling rings when they were released. "We can expect more of these cases," Malic tells the AP. "As long as the smugglers think they can make big money without getting caught, they will keep doing it." (ISIS is believed to have used mustard gas in Iraq.)