Interpol official warns of bioterror threat

Mar 20, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – Interpol's top official said yesterday that evidence collected from terrorists suggests that international law enforcement agencies should be ready to respond to chemical and biological attacks.

Ronald K. Noble, Interpol secretary-general, told a reporter from Gulf News, a newspaper based in the United Arab Emirates, that training materials recovered from Al Qaida investigations and information from captured operatives suggest that terrorist groups have had plans to launch bioterrorist attacks. Noble made the comments at an Interpol bioterrorism prevention workshop for the Middle East and North Africa, which is being held this week in Muscat, Oman. Interpol is the world's largest international organization of police agencies.

The goals of 3-day meeting in Oman are to educate senior law enforcement officials about bioterrorism prevention and response and provide them with guidance from international scientific and legal experts, according to an Interpol press release yesterday. Similar Interpol workshops have been held in South Africa, Singapore, Chile, and Ukraine.

"I have no doubt that the threat of bioterrorism is real and that we need to do more to prepare countries," Noble said in the press release.

Terrorists in Iraq recently perpetrated three chlorine bomb attacks, and "it is not difficult to imagine these attacks being extended from chemical to biological," Noble told Gulf News. "Nobody really knows when al Qaida will strike with chemical or biological weapons, but it is just a matter of time before the terrorists believe they are ready," he said, adding that the only restraint the terrorists face is the technical complexity of launching effective attacks.

In January, British intelligence officials warned the country's laboratory officials that Islamic terrorists may try to steal deadly viruses to mount biological attacks, the London Daily Mail reported on Jan 25.

Labs that handle infectious disease pathogens such as polio, rabies, tuberculosis, and avian flu were told that their security measures would be reviewed by law enforcement, the newspaper reported. The story said Britain's MI5 security service had warned government officials that al Qaida operatives were training in bioterrorism and that the group had apparently tried to recruit university students to gain access to labs.

See also:

Mar 19 Interpol press release
http://www.interpol.int/News-and-media/News-media-releases/2007/PR006

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