Are militant groups interested in weaponizing Ebola?

Ebola suffererBy IAN ALLEN |
Does the Ebola epidemic present militant groups, such as the Islamic State or al-Qaeda, with the opportunity to weaponize viruses and direct them against Western targets? Earlier this month, United States Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson dismissed in strong terms the possibility that Ebola would be used by Islamic State militants to attack American targets. Speaking to the Association of the United States Army, Johnson acknowledged that the Islamic State is a “very, very dangerous terrorist organization”, but added that his Department had seen “no specific credible evidence that [the Islamic State] is attempting to use any sort of disease or virus to attack” the US. A few days earlier, however, Forbes magazine had quoted Al Shimkus, Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College, as saying that the Ebola outbreak presented Islamist groups with the opportunity to use a low-tech bioterrorist weapon “to attempt to wreak strategic global infection”. Shimkus added that a group like the Islamic State wouldn’t even have to weaponize the virus’ it could “simply use human carriers to intentionally infect themselves in West Africa, then disseminate the deadly virus via the world’s air transportation system”, he said. On Wednesday, a senior Spanish official told a parliamentary committee in Madrid that the government of Spain was “taking seriously” discussions in Internet forums linked to the Islamic State about using biological weapons against the West. Francisco Martínez, who is Spain’s State Secretary for Security, told the Committee of the Interior in the Spanish Congress that online commentators connected to the Islamic State have been discussing the possibility of using Ebola as a weapon against America and its Western allies. He told Committee members that the discussions had been taking place on Internet forums as recently as mid-September. He also cited “a series of tweets” from last July, in which another Islamist group, Ansar al-Islam, with roots in Iraqi Kurdistan, proposed using “deadly chemical products from laboratories” as means of launching attacks against the West. Martínez did not provide further details on the allegations.

Bolivia expels second US diplomat for having CIA links

Evo Morales

Evo Morales

Two weeks ago, Bolivian President Evo Morales said the CIA was actively conspiring to subvert his government’s energy policy. On Monday, the President announced the expulsion of a US diplomat, whom he accused of working for the CIA. The diplomat, Francisco Martinez, Second Secretary at the US Embassy in Bolivian capital La Paz, has been given 72 hours to leave the country. The Bolivian government says Martinez “was in permanent contact with opposition groups” in the country, and helped facilitate the separatist protests of September 2008. Martinez’s alleged actions were reportedly exposed by a Bolivian police officer who was recently arrested for participating in an alleged CIA-led effort to infiltrate Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB), Bolivia’s nationalized oil company. The scandal led to several layoffs at YPFB and to the subsequent arrest of the company’s former Director, Santos Ramirez, on corruption charges. Read more of this post

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