START Report Discusses Link Between TCOs and Islamic Terrorist Groups

A new report written by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism’s (START) in response to the recent theft in Mexico of a truck that was transporting radioactive material, concludes there are “substantial disincentives” for any type of collaboration between Islamic terrorist groups and Latin American-based transnational criminal organizations (TCOs).

For the past two years, START has been working on a project to determine what the potential alliances are of these two groups and if they could work together in order to  obtain radiological and nuclear materials.

The organization concluded that Islamic terrorists would have little reason to trust the TCOs, given the great differences in worldviews. There are several reasons cited in the report that TCO’s would be hesitant to work with Islamic terrorist group, with one of the main reasons being profit-motivation that drives most of these TCOs. The risks involved to the group’s safety, as well as retaliation from authorities, are other factors that inhibit this collaboration.  

Recovered cobalt-60. Recovered cobalt-60.

Although the recent theft of the truck carrying cobalt-60 wasn’t connected to terrorist activities, it did send up red flags over the potential consequences if this activity were to take place. However, according to the report, “Although unfounded, the recent incident in Mexico stirred concern regarding the potential for criminal organizations to acquire, smuggle and sell radiological materials, possibly to terrorist organizations. While there are many potential intersections between TCOs and terrorists, ranging from hybrid organizations to ideologically- or kinship-based collaboration, the scenario that seems to be of most concern to policymakers is TCOs utilizing their existing pathways and infrastructures for smuggling drugs, human beings and other cargo into the United States in order to provide a ‘delivery service’ for terrorists to smuggle RN weapons or materials into the United States.”

START says that although there is no indication that TCOs and Islamic terrorist groups are working together, there is “significant evidence of collaboration in drug trafficking and the transportation of members of terrorist organizations in and out of Central and South America.”

The report shared these conclusions of what the effects a “dirty bomb” explosion could have on the general population:

“At a minimum, “a radiological attack would entail considerable costs for cleaning up the attack site and may lead to at least the temporary displacement of people residing in the area where the attack occurred. The disruptive psychological impact on a public largely unaware about the effects of radiological terrorism would likely be far more damaging than the actual physical destruction, and could result in billions of dollars in economic damage and could stress the public health system.”   

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