CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — An Associated Press investigation reveals that a remote corner of eastern Europe has become a thriving marketplace for nuclear material aimed at extremists in the Middle East. Here are five key findings:
—Criminal gangs with Russian ties have made repeated attempts in recent years to shop bomb-grade nuclear material in Moldova to Middle Eastern buyers.
—Early this year, a gang specifically sought a buyer from the Islamic State group for highly radioactive cesium. The AP has exclusive details of the previously unpublicized case.
—In 2011, an organized crime ring led by a shadowy Russian nicknamed "the Colonel" tried to sell bomb-grade uranium to a real Middle Eastern buyer, in the most serious of four cases in the past five years.
—Hatred for the United States motivated the middleman in the 2011 case. In his home, police found diagrams on how to make a dirty bomb and a weapons contract made out to the ring's target buyer.
—The nuclear smugglers are getting off lightly with short prison sentences and resurfacing repeatedly to return to the illicit trade — showing that the trafficking is not under control.