Criminal gangs 'trying to sell nuclear material to Isil'
The discovery of a plot to sell radioactive material to Isil is a "chilling" reminder of the threat which the terror group poses to Europe, British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said.
Authorities in the eastern European state of Moldova have revealed details of four attempts made in the past five years by gangs with suspected Russian connections to sell nuclear materials on the black market.
In the latest case, in February, a smuggler is reported to have specifically sought a buyer from Isil for a cache of deadly caesium - enough to contaminate several city streets.
The AP news agency reported that Moldovan investigators had infiltrated smuggling gangs believed to be sourcing radioactive contraband in Russia, and quoted a police officer involved in the operation as saying: "We can expect more of these cases. As long as the smugglers think they can make big money without getting caught, they will keep doing it."
Mr Fallon said the case was an indication of the "direct threat" which Isil poses, and added to the case for hitting the terror group "harder".
He said: "It is a chilling reminder of just how dangerous Isil is - a very direct threat not just in the Middle East to the government of Iraq and the people of Syria, but a very direct threat to the West and a direct threat to this country. It's a reminder to all of us that we have to tackle Isil harder."
Mr Fallon warned that Russia's launch of air strikes in Syria has made the situation in the war-torn Middle Eastern country "much more dangerous".
He will join fellow Nato defence ministers in Brussels today for a meeting which he expects to send a message to Moscow to stop its war planes' incursions into the air space of Turkey - a member of the Western military alliance - and to end its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Mr Fallon told the BBC: "The Russian intervention in Syria has made a pretty difficult situation much more dangerous.
"In Brussels, Nato ministers will be discussing how we can encourage the Russians to use their influence to stop propping up the Assad regime - which is bombing its own citizens and has helped to fuel the rise of Isil."