Authorities seize 'dirty bomb' ingredients

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

TBILISI, Georgia -- A taxi driver was detained after authorities in the Georgian capital found nerve gas and radioactive materials that can make a "dirty bomb" in his cab, officials said Monday.

Tedo Mokeliya was detained May 31 after police in this former Soviet republic discovered two containers holding cesium-137 and strontium in his taxi, said Givi Mgebrish-vili, chief of the Interior Ministry's main criminal investigation department.

Cesium and strontium, which have medical and industrial applications, also are considered likely ingredients for a so-called "dirty bomb," in which conventional explosives are combined with radioactive material. Police also found a dark brown liquid later determined to be nerve gas concentrate, Mgebrishvili said. No other details were immediately available.

Police said the illicit materials might have been earmarked for sale in Turkey.

Officials did not say where Mokeliya is believed to have obtained the substances or why they chose to search his taxi in the first place.

Thefts of the materials became common after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and, according to some estimates, dozens of such containers remain unaccounted for.

Environment Minister Nino Chkhobadze said the materials allegedly seized from the taxi had not contaminated the surrounding environment.

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