Dr. Barak Ben Zur | JCPA Early last month, world leaders attending a nuclear security summit in Washington DC expressed concern over nuclear and radiological terrorism threats. This was a formal international gathering hosted by the American president dedicated to the evolving ability of terror groups to plan and carry out mass killing attacks using unconventional means. Publicly, the summit’s participants did not provide any substantial new information about any pending preparations among known terror groups. This raises the question how serious the threat is, and in the absence of clear leads and intelligence materials, the question is how can we assess this threat? The background of the global Jihad provides us with some indications, especially those efforts conducted by former Al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin-Laden, to acquire nuclear materiel. His efforts included a couple of initiatives but especially worrisome was Bin-Laden’s bargaining with a former Sudanese general who claimed he could provide such nuclear materiel. According to the 9/11 Commission’s report, Bin-Laden paid $1.5 million dollars only to find that the offer was a fraud. In most cases, the orphan radioactive sources (material no longer under regulatory control) represent a danger of “dirty bombs” – rather than actual nuclear bombs – which can contaminate large areas. The episode – despite its failed result – taught us about Bin-Laden’s intentions. We have already learned, after the mass killing attacks on 9/11 and similar foiled plots, that it was not enough for Bin-Laden. He sought much more spectacular attacks as a part of his Islamic revolution. ISIS, which emerged from Al-Qaeda, is waging its battles on the same ideological foundation. The call for global Islamic revolution is the same call. The use of brutal violence is far harsher compared to past terror groups and even to Al-Qaeda. Practically, in some aspects, ISIS is much closer to securing and using unconventional weapons. One of the major ISIS advantages concerning the development of unconventional measures is its control of large territories in northeast Syria – territories where ISIS has access to the Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) installations in suburbs of Aleppo and al-Safirah. This scientific institution, functioning since 1969, was fully engaged in the development of chemical and biological agents and a variety of studies in the atomic field. The assumption should be that members of the staff working there joined or were forced to join ISIS efforts. We should assume that despite the Syrian army efforts in mid-2015 to transport or destroy the laboratories’ contents, ISIS may have succeeded in capturing at least some of it. ISIS is attracting thousands of volunteers from Western countries, among them educated, skilled people who can contribute to ISIS’ unconventional weapons development efforts. In 2009, for example, the French authorities arrested a physicist who worked in a Swiss research center and expressed sympathy to global Jihad groups in North Africa. Such experts can be helpful not only in ISIS-controlled territories, but in Western cities as well. Belgian official sources hinted lately about plots aiming to set off a nuclear disaster. Following the March 2016, terror attack in Brussel’s airport, Belgian authorities conducted large-scale investigations and exposed a large terror infrastructure. The authorities identified ISIS members’ intelligence-gathering as preparation for a future terror attack on a nuclear plant. The terrorist plan included attacking nuclear facilities by ground attacks or by cyber methods. This modus operandi has been familiar for years. British authorities arrested and indicted 10 years ago a group linked to Al-Qaeda preparing similar plans. ISIS, with the support of Western volunteers, is probably even dangerous and determined.