Editors and News Directors:
Early this year, at an exclusive dance club in Eastern Europe, two men worked out a deal to sell highly radioactive material to the Islamic State. The seller wanted 2.5 million euros in return for enough radioactive cesium to contaminate several city blocks.
"You can make a dirty bomb, which would be perfect for the Islamic State," the smuggler said. But the buyer was a plant, the sale was an FBI sting operation, and when it was over three people were behind bars.
The case, uncovered by the Associated Press, was the latest in at least four attempts in recent years by gangs with suspected Russian ties to shop radioactive material in Moldova to buyers from the Middle East -- an AP investigation has found.
But while the Moldovans made critical arrests and took dangerous materials off the market, their successes were compromised by striking shortcomings -- key suspects got away, those arrested evaded long prison sentences, and sometimes quickly returned to nuclear smuggling. Despite determined efforts to control the world's traffic in radioactive materials, the cases show that the nuclear black market is far from under control.
--Text: A full and an abridged version of the story by Desmond Butler and Vadim Ghirda will publish at 9 p.m. The abridged version of 900 words moves Hold For Release at 5:30 p.m., followed by a 3,000-word Hold For Release story at 7 p.m.
--Photos: A package of photos by Vadim Ghirda will move to PhotoStream. Photo numbers: NY511-533. All images will be placed on the AP Images site.
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