RealNews

Al Qaeda Near Biological, Chemical Arms Production

Al Qaeda leaders, long known to covet biological and chemical weapons, have reached at least the threshold of production and may already have manufactured some of them, according to a newly obtained cache of documentary evidence and interrogations recently conducted by the U.S. government. Three people with access to written reports said the emerging picture depicts the al Qaeda biochemical weapons program as considerably more advanced than U.S. analysts knew. The picture continues to sharpen daily, one official said, because translation and analysis of the documents continues, and because the operative captured with them began divulging meaningful information about production plans only this week. Authorized government spokesmen declined to discuss the subject, saying it is classified. Leaders at the top of al Qaeda’s hierarchy, the evidence shows, completed plans and obtained the materials required to manufacture two biological toxins — botulinum and salmonella — and the chemical poison cyanide. They are also close to a feasible production plan for anthrax, a far more lethal weapon, which kills 90 percent of untreated victims if spread by inhalation and as many as 75 percent of those treated when the first symptoms become evident. Among the documents seized was a direction to purchase bacillus anthracis, the bacterium that causes anthrax disease. Most of the new information comes from handwritten documents and computer hard drives seized during the March 1 capture of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, regarded by some government analysts as al Qaeda’s most important operational planner. Known inside al Qaeda as “the Brain,” Mohammed has acknowledged being the principal author of the Sept. 11, 2001, plot. Significantly, one official noted, Mohammed was arrested at a Rawalpindi, Pakistan, home owned by Abdul Quddoos Khan, a bacteriologist with access to production materials and facilities who has since disappeared. Full Story

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