Alazam 5 Rockets and the Zarqawi Tape

Schematic of an Alazan rocket

In last week’s posting, The Military & Propaganda Messages in Zarqawi’s Tape, I pointed out the missiles that were so prominent in video were crude and ineffective weapons as the rockets were small and unguided. While this is true in a conventional sense, it turns out the weapons depicted in the video are Alazam 5 rockets, some of which have been modified for a very unconventional purpose, as a delivery vehicle for a radiological weapon. An unnamed military source contacted me to identify the rockets shown in the video, and stated, “It was known as the Alazan 5 a former Soviet weather rocket in which the Chechen’s modified as a surface to surface missile… There were many missing from Moldova and we had reports of five warheads that were modified as RDDs [Radiological Dispersion Devices] also missing.” The military source followed up with a confirmation, and noted “They are most definitely the same missile… It shows there is a weapons link [from] the Moldova black market [to Iraq]…”

Alazan 5 rocket from the Zarqawi tape. Click to Enlarge.

In December of 2003, the Washington Post reported on the rampant black market activity in the “tiny separatist enclave known as Transdniester,” a breakaway region of the former Soviet Republic of Moldova. “At least 38 Alazan warheads were modified to carry radioactive material,” according the Washington Post, and several of the warheads and missiles were unaccounted for. In May of 2005, a reporter from the Sunday Times of London stated he posed as an Algerian Islamist and was able to arrange for the purchase of three Alazan 5 missiles armed with a radiological warheads, “They were offered to the reporter for $500,000 (£263,000) after he approached a senior officer in Transdniester’s secret police, claiming to represent a militant group in Algeria. The officer contacted a local arms dealer who arranged meetings with the reporter on a bridge in Transdniester and later at a hotel in neighbouring Moldova.” In November of 2005, MosNews.Com reported “The authorities of Moldova’s breakaway region, the republic of Transdniester, deny reports that Soviet Alazan radiation rockets are openly sold in the region,” and called the Sunday Times incident a “hoax.”

Photograph of an Alazan 5 rocket. Click to Enlarge.

It is unclear if the Alazan 5s shown in the video are artifacts from the Saddam regime, or if the rockets were purchased and brought into Iraq by al Qaeda after the fall of Saddam’s regime. No matter how the weapons were obtained [and this is not to minimize the importance of how these weapons entered Iraq], the likelihood is that al Qaeda in Iraq is aware of the radiological capabilities of the Alazan 5. There is an unusual amount of footage of these rockets within the Zarqawi videotape. al Qaeda in Iraq may be sending a message: we have a delivery system available to launch radiological weapons inside Iraq – and beyond.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.



  • Alazam 5 Rockets and the Zarqawi Tape

    Courtesy of the Counterterrorism Blog:
    By Bill Roggio
    In last week’s posting, The Military & Propaganda Messages in Zarqawi’s Tape, I pointed out the missiles that were so prominent in video were crude and ineffective weapons as the…

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