Monday, 20 December 2010

Yemen's radioactive storage facility was left unguarded for a week

According to a US cable, released by WikiLeaks, a storage facility holding Yemen's radioactive material was left without security for up to a week, after its only security guard was fired on 30th December 2009.

The cable, published by the Guardian newspaper, was sent by a Yemeni official to the US homeland security department and other security authorities as well as the US Secretary of State. The cable made its way to the US shortly after last year's failed Christmas day bomb attack targeting a Detroit bound plane.

The plot was masterminded by a Nigerian born Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, believed to have been radicalised in Yemen. Abdulmutallab attempted to bring down the airliner over Detroit, but was intercepted.

The cable also revealed that the single closed circuit security camera monitoring the storage facility was broken and never fixed. The Yemeni government official, whose name was removed from the documents, expressed concern about the unsecured state of a National Atomic Energy Commission facility (NAEC). According to the cable, the official called on the US to persuade the Yemeni government to "remove all materials from the country until they can be better secured, or immediately improve security measures at the NAEC facility".

A couple of days prior to the January 9th 2009 cable, Yemeni foreign minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi told the US ambassador in Yemen that, "no radioactive material was currently stored in Sana'a and that all "radioactive waste was shipped to Syria".

Sources: Aljazeera, The Telegraph, Guardian

For more news and expert analysis about Yemen, please see Yemen Focus.

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