McMaster nukes terror claim

November 14, 2003

A leading Canadian research university was deluged with media interest when The Washington Times claimed that an al-Qaida cell seeking materials for a dirty bomb was linked to its nuclear research programme.

McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, opened the first university-based research reactor in the British Commonwealth in 1959.

Last month, a staff reporter wrote in The Washington Times that he had reason to believe that a Canadian-based operative with the terrorist organisation had enrolled at the university and was looking for nuclear material to assemble a dirty bomb.

McMaster learnt the article was about to be published and investigated the allegations. It searched for the eight names and aliases alleged to be associated with the dirty bomb and found that none was ever registered at the university. It also checked its nuclear facilities and their records of all materials shipped in and out of the secure site, as well as every staff member and visitor.

"A breach of security is a very serious allegation," said Jayne Johnston, McMaster's acting director of public relations. "We had to take it seriously."

The university proved that there was no truth in the story that it enrolled known-terrorist students or that its facilities had been tampered with.

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