LONDON: Iranian terrorists may have staged a “dry run” to test the capabilities of UK customs authorities after a uranium shipment was discovered at Heathrow Airport, the Daily Telegraph reported on Thursday.
The consignment was discovered on Dec. 29 — amid an eight-day strike by Border Force staff — at the London airport, where authorities traced its origins to an Oman Air flight from Pakistan.
The deadly shipment was intended to be sent to an Iran-registered business in the UK, but may have been used as part of a “dry run” to test the efficiency of the British customs system, said Philip Ingram, a former military intelligence officer.
The recipient of the shipment has been contacted by police but no arrests have been made in the case. The UK’s domestic intelligence agency MI5 is also involved in the investigation.
Ingram told the Telegraph: “If you were to use depleted uranium in a ‘dirty bomb,’ like any isotope it would cause a contamination issue — but there are a lot more radioactive isotopes out there that would be easier to get hold of and would have a much greater effect.
“It’s definitely a possibility that this could have been some form of reconnaissance or dry run to test how the security was operating during the industrial action.”
Ingram praised Heathrow authorities for detecting the radioactive package, which contained small amounts of uranium hidden in metal bars.
A security source said: “We get quite a lot of hits, but a lot are false positives and you have to respond to every single one. It is unusual for it to be real.”
Richard Smith, chief of the Metropolitan Police counterterror command, said: “I want to reassure the public that the amount of contaminated material was extremely small and has been assessed by experts as posing no threat to the public.
“Although our investigation remains ongoing, from our inquiries so far, it does not appear to be linked to any direct threat.
“As the public would expect, however, we will continue to follow up on all available lines of enquiry to ensure this is definitely the case.”