Monday, May 24, 2004

Countdown to the next big strike in America--Part 4

by William Webb

Weapons of Mass Destruction—Chemical and Biological Weapons

Interrogation of captured Al-Qaida leaders and examination of evidence from safe houses in Afghanistan and other places around the globe has prompted Western governments to place chemical and biological terrorism at the top of the probability matrix for the next big terrorist strike against the West.

The possibilities for types and uses of chemical or biological attacks alone could fill an entire book. In a pre-9/11 study, the Center for Strategic and International Studies said the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lists “several categories of chemical agents as presenting enough of a threat to require active public health planning. These include nerve agents, such as tabun (ethyl N, N-dimethylphosphoramidocyanidate), Sarin (isopropyl methylphosphanofluoridate), soman (pinacolyl methyl phosphonofluoridate), GF (cyclohexylmethylphosphonofluoridate), and VX (o-ethyl-[S]-[2-isopropylaminoethyl]-methylphosphonothiolate).

“They include blood agents such as hydrogen cyanide and cyanogen chloride; and blister agents such as lewisite (an aliphatic arsenic compound, 2-chlorovinyldichloroarsine), nitrogen and sulfur mustards, and phosgene
oxime. And, they include pulmonary agents like phosgene, chlorine, and vinyl chloride; and incapacitating agents like BZ (3-quinuclidinyl benzilate);

“Other agents on the CDC’s list are more commercial in character. They include heavy metals like arsenic, lead, and mercury; and volatile toxins like benzene, chloroform, and trihalomethanes. Other agents include explosive nitro compounds and oxidizers, such as ammonium nitrate combined with fuel oil. They include pulmonary agents like phosgene, chlorine, and vinyl chloride; persistent and nonpersistent pesticides; and dioxins, furans, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
They include flammable industrial gases and liquids like gasoline, propane; and poison industrial gases, liquids, and solids, like the cyanides, and nitriles. Finally, they include corrosive industrial acids and bases like nitric and sulfuric acid. ”

It is a veritable witches brew of deadly possibilities. The world has already witnessed a preview with sarin gas attacks in a residential neighborhood in Matsumoto, Japan in June 1994 that killed seven people and injured 500, and again in a Japanese subway in March 1995, which killed 12 and injured more than 1,000. The group responsible for the atrocities, Aum Shinrikyo, bought the formula for sarin from a Russian and successfully manufactured and tested it in a lab in Western Australia.

Not to be forgotten are the results of Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons against the Iranians during their protracted war and their use once again, against Iraqi Kurd civilians.

Chemical weapons are available from numerous pro-Islamic regimes including Syria, Iran, former Iraqis supporters of Sad am Hussein who are still on the run and active in the resistance, Sudan, Libya, Pakistan, and remnants of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

According to Western intelligence and public sources, a chapter of Al-Qaida’s voluminous 5,000-page Encyclopedia of Jihad is devoted to the manufacturing and production of chemical and biological weapons.

According to CNN correspondent Mike Boettcher, “The information in them, according to former Special Operations people who have seen them, is very good and very detailed …The manual on chemical and biological warfare did come as a surprise. It was not known that they had put together a volume that was a repository of their knowledge of chemical and biological weapons. It should be pointed out that the chem-bio manual instructs operatives in the manufacture of agents that can be easily put together in the field with ingredients readily available.”

That Al-Qaida already had plans to use chemical weapons in Europe is a fact. In November 2002, British MI5 agents arrested three Muslims in a plot to use cyanide gas in an attack on the London subway.

While one of the deputy prime ministers denied the story reported by The Sunday Times and others, several other people were arrested in neighboring countries in apparently connected plots. Other plots were uncovered involving cyanide in Paris and Rome. In Rome, four Moroccan Muslim extremists were arrested with 8.8 lbs of a cyanide compound and maps of the city’s reservoir and entrances to the U.S. embassy.

There have been chemical threats in United States the as well. Both the Washington, D.C. and New York subway systems received credible threats, one that was part of the reason of a raised alert level earlier in 2003.

As an element of the investigation of a suspected Al-Qaida training camp in Bly, Oregon, federal agents arrested Semi Osman, a Lebanese national and Imam, or prayer leader, at a now-defunct fundamentalist mosque in Seattle. Osman had ties to radical Sheik Abu Hamza al-Masri, one of Al-Qaida’s leading recruiters in London and the person believed to be behind the Oregon training camp.

Among the many items confiscated when Osman was arrested were “additional firearms, military field manuals, papers by Abu Hamza, instructions on poisoning water supplies, a visa application to Yemen and various other items associated with Islamic radicalism.”


Captured Al-Qaida operatives have spoken of plans and training for using chemicals to poison water supplies and to pump poison gases through the intake vents of large buildings.

Pentagon officials concluded that lab equipment confiscated by U.S. forces in Afghanistan probably indicated that Al-Qaida had acquired everything it needed for a very limited production of both chemical and biological agents.
Of course the most chilling reminder of Al-Qaida’s desire to use chemical weapons are the infamous puppy tapes carried on CNN in August of 2002. The captured tapes show dogs being gassed by what intelligence experts believed to be hydrogen cyanide or a crude nerve agent.

Ahmad Rassam, the terrorist who pled guilty to plotting to bomb the Los Angeles Airport, LAX, during the time of millennium celebrations said in court that he also had witnessed the gassing of a dog with cyanide while in training in Afghanistan.

Like dirty bombs, chemical weapons can be constructed and delivered quite easily depending on the agent. The fact that Al-Qaida and other groups have easy access to the weapons and have already gained religious justification to use them places chemical weapons very high on the threat pyramid.

Of even greater concern, are biological weapons. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who along with President Bill Clinton started the Hart-Rudman Commission whose reports read like prophecy today, wrote in The American Enterprise “the greatest threat to the human race over the next 30 to 50 years is an engineered infectious biological weapon.”

Fortunately, terrorists do not seem to have acquired either the expertise or the biological agents—yet—for a catastrophic strike, but their ability to cause terror and death with biological weapons must not be underestimated.
The main problem with bio weapons is similar to that of chemical weapons.

There are many sources of expertise and weapons from countries sympathetic to Muslim and anti-Western causes. These include the usual suspects: Iran, Syria, former members of the former Iraqi regime, North Korea, Sudan, Libya, and former Muslim members of Russia’s enormous bio-weapons programs.

Investigations into the activities of the 19 hijackers of 9/11 revealed that Mohamed Atta, Zacarias Moussaoui, and others actively researched and sought information and materials on acquiring, operating, and flying crop dusters to spread chemical or biological agents.

America experienced bio-war on a small scale with the mail anthrax attack in September and October 2001. The attack killed five people and caused many more to be ill. The perpetrators hadn’t been caught as of fall 2003.

Although the perpetrators remain a mystery, the attacks are significant because as Stephen Younger, director of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, said Al-Qaida’s main interest in biological weapons seems to be focused on anthrax. Western societies can expect further attempts too use anthrax as a weapon.

Liberating forces in Afghanistan found a biological weapons lab that was apparently built to produce anthrax, but the rout of the Taliban prevented weapons to be made in that particular lab.

Other sources suggested that five of the 19 labs discovered throughout Afghanistan did test positive for anthrax. More importantly, a “well-placed,” U.S. intelligence source said that evidence was found indicating one or more former Russian scientist were helping Al-Qaida to weaponize anthrax.

Other documents seized in Afghanistan showed Al-Qaida conducting research on botulism toxins that had a capacity of killing at least 2,000 people at a time.
The DEBKA FILE, an online newsletter that purportedly receives Israeli intelligence input, reported that Iraqi military instructors trained between 150-250 Al-Qaida members in the use of chemical and biological weapons and possibly in the handling of nuclear devices. The training took place in northern Iraq.

None of these instances should come as a surprise. Al-Qaida’s chemical and biological aspirations have been well-documented as far back as the early 1990s.
The trial of “the returnees from Albania,” a group of jihadists on trial in Egypt, should have given somebody cause for concern. The lawyer for several of the defendants, Muntasir al-Zayyat, said during the trial in 1999 that bin Laden had chemical and biological weapons and planned to use them against the United States.
One of the defendants, Ahmad Salama Mabruk, stated that Al-Qaida had purchased chemical weapons from “European states and the former Soviet Union during a two-year period prior to 1998.”

Other defendants were more specific. They testified that Al-Qaida received ebola virus and salmonella from former Muslim-sympathetic republics of the former Soviet Union, anthrax from East Asia, and botulinum toxin from the Czech Republic.

This time period, between 1996-1998 was about the time that memos found by a British reporter in 2001 were written. The memos, believed to be files of Ayman al-Zawahiri, outlined both his chemical and biological program, codenamed “curdled milk.” He was assisted by Midhat al-Mursi, a chemical engineer. The files outlined several projects including one to increase absorption of pesticides. They also outlined the results of test on dogs and rabbits.

Two men currently run Al-Qaida’s biological and chemical programs: Abu Musaab al Zarqawi and Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah. Al Zarqawi is a Jordanian-Palestinian who fled an Al Ansar camp in Iraq during the start of the 2003 war with Iraq. Intelligence sources say he received extensive training in terror techniques at Iraq’s Salman Pak special weapons facility.

Bill Gertz reported for the Washington Times in June 2003 that Al Zarqawi had fled to Iran and was being protected by the Iranian government. Intelligence sources say that Al Zarqawi established the base in Bayara in the Kurdish northern Iraq that was decimated by an allied air strike during the war. He allegedly supervised the relocation of almost 200 Al-Qaida fugitives from Afghanistan to southern Lebanon. His movements between Baghdad, Bayara, Damascus, and Beirut before the war are what helped prompt both President Bush and Secretary of State Powell’s statements concerning the connection between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaida. He is also believed to be responsible for the killing of Laurence Foley, a U.S. diplomat in Jordan.


Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah is on the FBI’s list of most wanted terrorists for his part in the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. The Israelis also want him, because while it is known that Mohammed Fazul actually led the bombing against the Mombasa Palace hotel, and the attempted shoot-down with a shoulder-launched missile of an Arkia airliner with 270 people aboard, Abdullah was the mastermind.

Intelligence sources believe while al Zarqawi continues to wreak havoc in Iraq, Abdullah has been tasked to perform another large-scale strike within the United States.

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