Eleven nuclear workers in Belgium have had their security passes revoked amid fears the attackers who carried out this week’s bombings in Brussels intended to build a radioactive dirty bomb.
A senior nuclear official was secretly filmed by jihadists late last year, with brothers Ibrahim and Khalid El Bakraoui linked to the plot to scatter radioactive material over a crowded area.
Speaking to The Times, an official at the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control said: “When you start filming someone in the way they did, the logical conclusion is that they wanted to abduct that person and to obtain radioactive material.”
The “big question” now facing authorities is whether the intended to build a dirty bomb with the aim of attacking a large public space, contaminating it with radioactive material, the official added.
Over 100 soldiers were guarding Belgium’s two nuclear power stations last night, as well as a nuclear research facility and a company that makes isotopes for medical purposes.
Seven workers at the Tihange nuclear power station have now had their passes revoked, with a further four withdrawn after vetting by a committee composed of intelligence and security agencies.
Mohammed Bakkali, 28, is the key figure in the alleged plot. He was arrested in November on suspicion of helping plan the Paris attacks, with police raiding his wife’s flat and finding video footage taken by a hidden camera opposite the home of an executive at the Centre for the Study of Nuclear Energy in the town of Mol.
It is increasingly apparent that he is a central figure in the Brussels jihadist ring. He was originally arrested for renting safe houses for terror suspects under a false Portuguese identity, including one for Salah Abdeslam who was capture last week.
Criticism has been growing of Belgium’s handling of intelligence before the attacks that killed more than 30 people and left hundreds injured. Two government ministers offered to resign, although their resignations were rejected by Prime Minister Charles Michel.
Last night, police made more arrests in a series of raids in the neighbourhoods of Schaerbeek and Jette, as well as in the centre of Brussels.
Details have not yet emerged of the people arrested.