It is not just a country’s worst nightmare but one that would, like 9/11, disrupt the whole world.
There are perhaps few weapons in existence that could cause more confusion, sickness and death in a society, undermining its very foundations, than biological ones used by terrorists. (One only has to remember the fear caused by only a small number of ‘anthrax letters’ in the weeks after 9/11.)
“Biological weapons are unique in their invisibility and their delayed effect,” wrote Stefan Riedel, a doctor, in anarticle on biological warfare.
A biowarfare attack would not only cause “death in a large number of victims and a paralyzing uncertainty,” Riedel also claims: “It’s goal is disruption of social and economic activity, the breakdown of government authority, and impairment of military responses.”
It is for these reasons, among others, that the United States is helping construct a safe storage facility, through its Defence Threat Reduction Agency, for Kenya’s Medical Research Institute in Kisumu City. America is paying 90 per cent of the costs.
Kenya has “multiple biological organisms” in the institute, which pose “a great threat to the community” if released accidentally or on purpose. Overall, a 2015 survey found that “Kenya stores at least 16 dangerous pathogens.”
Kenya has been a particular target of Islamic terrorist attacks in the past. Among the more spectacular and devastating ones have been the blowing up of the American embassy in 1998 that cost 213 lives, mostly Kenyan embassy employees. Others were the Westgate Mall attack in 2013 in Nairobi, leaving 67 dead
But it was probably a thwarted Islamic terrorist plot in Kenya involving a planned biowarfare attack in 2016 that contributed most to America’s decision to help that country build the safe storage facility.
The 2016 plot, a proposed “large-scale biological attack,” was led by a medical intern working in a Kenyan hospital. The intern headed a terror group that “included other medical experts who could help organize a biological attack using anthrax,” Kenyan security stated. The plot was apparently connected to the Islamic State
“His network included medical experts with whom they planned to unleash a biological attack in Kenya using anthrax,” said Kenya’s Inspector General Joseph Boinnet, adding the attack aimed at “various targets.”
Kenyan authorities said the plot was truly international in character stretching to Somalia, Libya and Syria. The intern’s wife was also arrested and police were searching for two other medical interns.
But Kenya was not the only African country where a terrorist plot involving biological weapons was thwarted that year. In 2016, the Interior Minister of Morocco announced the arrest of ten ‘jihadists’. They were preparing to use “deadly toxic and biological substances” in a “terrorist project.”
“Some of the substances seized are classed by international bodies specializing in health as biological weapons, dangerous for their ability to paralyze and destroy the nervous system and to cause death,” said the Minister.
Again, like in Kenya, this cell was believed connected to the Islamic State.
Only last year, one such attack, described as “without precedent,” was foiled by German security authorities in Cologne. A Tunisian was found in his apartment with about a thousand grams of highly poisonous ricin, deadly even in small doses.
“The dose probably could have wounded, if not killed, at least several hundred people,” said Hans-Georg Maasen, president of Office for the Defense of the Constitution (Germany’s FBI).
In the Cologne apartment, police also discovered material for making a bomb. Security officials also “found clues” the Tunisian had “concrete plans” for an attack in Germany.
“If the project had been executed, it would have been the worst terrorist attack in Europe to this day,” said Herbert Reul, interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia where Cologne is located.