CAIRO – A storage facility housing Yemen's radioactive material was unsecured for up to a week after its lone guard was removed and its surveillance camera was broken, a secret U.S. State Department cable released by WikiLeaks revealed Monday.
The message, dated Jan. 9, relates the worries of a Yemeni official, whose name was removed, about the unguarded state of a National Atomic Energy Commission facility. He pushes the U.S. embassy to urge his own government to secure the material.
"Very little now stands between the bad guys and Yemen's nuclear material," the official is quoted as saying in the cable, which appeared on the website of the British Guardian newspaper.
Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country, hosts a particularly active branch of Al-Qaida that has not only repeatedly attacked the Yemeni government but attempted several attacks against the U.S. including last year's failed plot to blow up an airliner in Detroit on Christmas.
On Jan. 7, Yemeni Foreign Abu Bakr al-Qirbi told the ambassador that "no radioactive material was currently stored in Sanaa and that all 'radioactive waste' was shipped to Syria."
According to the cable, the radioactive material was used by local universities for agricultural research, Sanaa hospital and by international oil companies.
The facility's lone guard was removed on Dec. 30, 2009, reported the cable and its single closed circuit TV camera had been broken for the last six months.
Yemeni officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the cable.
The cable said the embassy would push senior Yemeni officials to provide an accounting of its radioactive materials and ensure storage facilities were secure.