Links between extremists and Pak nuclear scientists cause concern

Links between extremists and Pak nuclear scientists cause concern

CIA Director nominee Gina Haspel testifies at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. Reuters

The CIA continues to be very concerned about the potential connection between extremist groups and Pakistani nuclear scientists and is very closely monitoring this, a top official from the spy agency has told lawmakers.

"There was very deep concern about potential contacts, and we continue to monitor this very closely, between extremists and Pakistani nuclear scientists," Gina Haspel, US President Donald Trump's nominee for CIA director told the members of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee during her confirmation hearing yesterday.

Haspel, if confirmed by the Senate, would be the first female head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). She was responding to a question from Senator John Cornyn.

"(Recently reading through a book) I was reminded that post-9/11, President Bush was concerned about reports he had received that Osama bin Laden and al Qaida were meeting with the Pakistani officials connected with their nuclear programme to gain access to a nuclear device that they might then use for a follow-on attack against the cities like Washington DC," Cornyn said.

"Without divulging classified information, can you confirm that there were concerns about follow-on attacks using nuclear devices, biological weapons, other weapons of mass destruction that might have killed more innocent Americans as happened on 9/11? Was that the environment in which you and the country were operating in at the time?" Cornyn asked.

There were very grave concerns on that front, Haspel answered.

"And indeed, al Qaida had those kinds of programmes, efforts to acquire crude, dirty bombs, efforts to develop -- they had a programme -- a biological weapons programme. I remember the operative who was in charge of that," Haspel said.