The head of an Indian terror group reportedly has admitted to authorities that he wanted his superior in Pakistan to provide a compact "nuclear bomb."
Indian Mujahideen leader Ahmad Zarar Siddibappa, also known as Yasin Bhatkal, has been in Indian custody since his arrest in late August. The terrorist commander and bomb expert told officials that he earlier asked in a phone conversation with his Pakistan-based superior, Riyaz Bhaktal, if he could be given an atomic device, the Times of India reported, citing the Indian extremist's interrogation report.
Bhatkal reportedly said Riyaz told him "anything can be arranged in Pakistan."
"Riyaz told me that attacks can be done with nuclear bombs," Bhatkal was quoted by the Times as telling officials. "I requested him to look for one nuclear bomb for [an attack on] Surat," on India's west coast.
"Riyaz told me Muslims would also die in that [nuclear bomb blast], to which I said that we would paste posters in mosques asking every Muslim to quietly evacuate their families from the city," he reportedly told his interrogators.
The security of Pakistan's fissile materials has been a leading security concern for the United States for some time. While outside experts believe it would be difficult for terrorists to seize an entire nuclear warhead, they say it would be easier for insiders working at one of Pakistan's many nuclear weapon sites to gradually smuggle out enough weapon-grade material to build a rudimentary atomic device.
The Indian Mujahideen is understood to have close ties with Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani-based group that carried out the November 2008 mass terror attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai.
An unidentified high-ranking Indian intelligence figure told the Times that officials have been "coming across different kinds of [improvised explosive devices] over the years. The reason is that terrorists are undergoing all kind of advanced army-level training in Pakistan with the help of [the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate]. And if terror outfits have access to nuclear bombs, then it is very dangerous for us."
In other news, India on Dec. 23 carried out another successful user trial of the Agni 3, an intermediate-range ballistic missile, the New Indian Express reported.
Indian Defense Research and Development Organization head Avinash Chander said the firing of the nuclear-capable weapon -- the longest-range missile in India's arsenal after the Agni 5 -- "was a copybook launch."
The surface-to-surface weapon has a 2,175-mile range.
Separately, India and Pakistan on Wednesday carried out their annual exchange of the lists of their respective atomic sites, the Xinhua News Agency reported. The swapping of lists is part of a decades-old bilateral trust-building agreement where each side promises not to attack the other country's nuclear facilities.