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WEAPONS & TERRORISM
Biological Weapons and Bioterrorism

What are biological weapons?

Destroyed chemical/biological warfare agent R400 aerial bombs destroyed in Iraq by U.N. inspectors after the Gulf War  
Destroyed chemical/biological warfare agent R400 aerial bombs destroyed in Iraq by U.N. inspectors after the Gulf War  

Biological weapons are any infectious agent such as a bacteria or virus when used intentionally to inflict harm upon others. This definition is often expanded to include biologically-derived toxins and poisons.

Biological warfare agents include both living microorganisms (bacteria, protozoa, rickettsia, viruses, and fungi), and toxins (chemicals) produced by microorganisms, plants, or animals. (Some authors classify toxins as chemical rather than biological agents, but most do not, and they were included within the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention-as reflected in its formal title, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction).

Writers on the subject have produced a long list of BW agents that terrorists could potentially use. Among those mentioned have been: anthrax, cryptococcosis, escherichia coli, haemophilus influenzae, brucellosis (undulant fever), coccidioidomycosis (San Joaquin Valley or desert fever), psittacosis (parrot fever), yersina pestis (the Black Death of the 14th Century), tularemia (rabbit fever), malaria, cholera, typhoid, bubonic plague, cobra venom, shellfish toxin, botulinal toxin, saxitoxin, ricin, smallpox, shigella flexneri, s. dysenteriae (Shiga bacillus), salmonella, staphylococcus enterotoxin B, hemorrhagic fever, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, histoplasma capsulatum, pneumonic plague, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, dengue fever, Rift Valley fever, diphtheria, melioidosis, glanders, tuberculosis, infectious hepatitis, encephalitides, blastomycosis, nocardiosis, yellow fever, typhus, tricothecene mycotoxin, aflatoxin, and Q fever.

Some of these agents are highly lethal; others would serve mainly in an incapacitating role. Some authors have also speculated about the possible terrorist use of new, genetically-engineered agents designed to defeat conventional methods of treatment or to attack specific ethnic groups, for example.

How dangerous are biological weapons
The Honorable John D. Holcum, in his Remarks to the Fourth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention, Geneva Switzerland said:

"Biological weapons are immensely destructive. In the right environment they can multiply, and so self-perpetuate. And they can naturally mutate, frustrating protective measures. Chemical weapons, for all their horrors, become less lethal as they are dispersed and diluted. But even the tiniest quantities of disease organisms can be lethal. For example, botulinum toxin has been described as 3 million times more potent than the chemical nerve agent sarin.

And these are truly loathsome instruments of war and terror. Anthrax, for instance, takes three excruciating days to destroy the membranes of the lungs and intestines.

Botulinum toxin annihilates by slow asphyxiation, as the cells of the victim's breathing muscles die from within.

  Biological Weapons Facts
 

Countering biological weapons »

What is Anthrax? »

Use of biological weapons in conflict in the Middle East »

Small wonder that the international community has placed such organisms out of bounds, even in combat. That was done in the 1972 Convention not only because these are weapons of mass destruction, but because they are infinitely cruel -- intrinsically weapons of terror."

 

Terrorist Organisations
Abu Nidal Organization (ANO)
Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)
* al-Qa'ida (Al-Qaeda)
Armed Islamic Group (GIA)
Aum Shinrikyo
Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA)
Gama'a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group, IG)
* HAMAS
Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM)
* Hizballah
Japanese Red Army (JRA)
al-Jihad
Kach and Kahane Chai
Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE)
Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK, MKO)
National Liberation Army (ELN)
Palestine Islamic Jihad-Shaqaqi Faction (PIJ)
Palestine Liberation Front-Abu Abbas Faction (PLF)
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC)
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)
Revolutionary Organization 17 November (17 November)
Revolutionary People's Liberation Army/Front (DHKP/C)
Revolutionary People's Struggle (ELA)
Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso, SL)
Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA)
Individuals
Usama Bin Laden
Ramzi Yousef
 
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