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Biological Warfare (cont.)

Bioterrorism and Biowarfare Today

  • Bioterrorism and biowarfare today: A number of countries have continued offensive biological weapons research and use. Additionally, since the 1980s, terrorist organizations have become users of biological agents. Usually, these cases amount only to hoaxes. However, the following exceptions have been noted:
    • In 1985, Iraq began an offensive biological weapons program producing anthrax, botulinum toxin, and aflatoxin. During Operation Desert Storm, the coalition of allied forces faced the threat of chemical and biological agents. Following the Persian Gulf War, Iraq disclosed that it had bombs, Scud missiles, 122-mm rockets, and artillery shells armed with botulinum toxin, anthrax, and aflatoxin. They also had spray tanks fitted to aircraft that could distribute agents over a specific target.
    • In September and October of 1984, 751 people were intentionally infected with Salmonella, an agent that causes food poisoning, when followers of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh contaminated restaurant salad bars in Oregon.
    • In 1994, a Japanese sect of the Aum Shinrikyo cult attempted an aerosolized (sprayed into the air) release of anthrax from the tops of buildings in Tokyo.
    • In 1995, two members of a Minnesota militia group were convicted of possession of ricin, which they had produced themselves for use in retaliation against local government officials.
    • In 1996, an Ohio man attempted to obtain bubonic plague cultures through the mail.
    • In 2001, anthrax was delivered by mail to U.S. media and government offices. There were four deaths.
    • In December 2002, six terrorist suspects were arrested in Manchester, England; their apartment was serving as a "ricin laboratory." Among them was a 27-year-old chemist who was producing the toxin. Later, on Jan. 5, 2003, British police raided two residences around London and found traces of ricin, which led to an investigation of a possible Chechen separatist plan to attack the Russian embassy with the toxin; several arrests were made.
    • On Feb. 3, 2004, three U.S. Senate office buildings were closed after the toxin ricin was found in a mailroom that serves Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's office.

The threat that biological agents will be used on both military forces and civilian populations is now more likely than it was at any other point in history.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/3/2014

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