Military News Analysis - Biological Warfare - Connection between Anthrax Infections, Iraq, Mohammed Atta and Osama's boast of more deadly future retaliation?

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WEST PALM BEACH, Florida ,with inputs from correspondents at Langley, Jerusalem, Brussels and New York

The first case of fatal Anthrax infection being followed by scores of confirmed cases in the US and across the globe, has raised suspicions that this could be the beginning of an organised global bio-terrorist attack

With the tens of cases of Anthrax infection that have been detected in the US, suspicions are rife that this could be the beginnings of an organised global bio-terrorist attack.

For the last 25 years there has been no case of anthrax infection. But with first case of fatal Anthrax infection being followed by tens of cases in the hallmarks of American public life, has raised suspicions that Germ Warfare has arrived.

The initial response to the first case being dismissed as a freak occurance was similar to the response to the first airliner hitting the first of the Twin Towers being perceived as a freak accident. But the second airliner hitting the second tower, made it evident that this was deliberate. A similar reasoning is working with the discovery of tens of Anthrax cases in the hallmarks of American public life, following the first three cases in the premises of the SUN, a tabloid brought out by American Media Inc (AMI)., a Florida tabloid publishing house.

Robert Stevens, a photo editor at The Sun, died on Friday 5th October, of inhalation of Anthrax. Traces of Anthrax were found in his work station at office.

With the discovery of subsequent cases that are increasing by the day, American officials are viewing all this as the beginnings of an organised global bio-terrorist attack. And since some variants of Anthrax infection are airborne, the dangers of its spread rapidly is tremendous. And once in the air, those not vaccinated against it can fall prey to it very easily without any effective cure in cases not treated immediately. For bio-terrorists this is manna for their aims of mass killing.

In India there was a similar scare of pneumonic plague a few years back in the city of Surat in the Western Indian state of Gujarat. This was due to natural causes, but the panic it created is indicative of what can happen on a global scale when the attack is deliberate, with the danger of its replication in different parts of the globe looming large.

Mohamed Atta used to over-fly the affected Florida neighborhood during his flying sorties

Federal officials said Tuesday 9th October, that their investigation into a deadly anthrax infection in Florida includes a closer look at forensic evidence gathered in the weeks since the September 11 terrorist attacks, especially items linked to the suspected hijackers themselves. Items the suspected hijackers left behind -- luggage, documents, cars -- are getting probed for any traces of anthrax, sources in Washington told CNN.

According to CNN, most worrisome to for the first victims Robert Stevens's neighbors was that their modest neighborhood is directly under the flight path used by small planes taking off from Palm Beach County Park Airport just a few blocks away. That's the airport from which Mohamed Atta -- the suspected pilot of the hijacked plane that slammed into the World Trade Center's North Tower Sept. 11 -- rented a small plane on three occasions during the month of August as part of his flight training.

Atta had also made several inquiries in the past year about how to fly crop dusters, a revelation that led to concerns that he might have been planning to use a spray plane to mount a biological attack.

The Sun and its sister newspaper, the Globe, both owned by the same parent company, have run highly inflammatory cover stories about Osama bin Laden in recent weeks, with headlines like: "Bin Laden Exposed! How he tortures women. His secret addiction. How he shames his faith." If two employees in the same building came down with the same disease, some worried, it could mean that the building's air circulation system had been covertly seeded with the deadly microbes.

What is Anthrax and how can the epidemic start?

Anthrax is caused by a bacterium that lives in the soil and is carried on the hides and hair of some cattle, goats and sheep. The microbes can cause human disease when they come in contact with a person's skin, are consumed, or are inhaled. The inhaled form is especially deadly, and a few nations are known to have made warheads loaded with the deadly spores.

Similarities with AIDS

In this respect it is similar in its origins to AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) which also originates from animal sources, although the risks of getting infected by AIDS are different from Anthrax. That Anthrax is airborne is the real cause for worry. Had it been water borne, or sexually transmitted, it would have been relatively easy to control. Being airborne, the only way is mass vaccination of an entire country's or continent's population. Without vaccination, anthrax spores can cause death in a matter of days from massive pneumonia and breakdown of blood vessels and organs. This is why the U.S. military has decided to vaccinate its active and reserve troops against the germ.

The Iraqi Connection with Anthrax

On January 25, 1999, the now-defunct UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) provided a report to the United Nations Security Council that summarized the status of eight years of work under UN Security Council Resolutions. According to the UNSCOM report, Iraq reported that it had filled sixteen missile warheads with Botulinum toxin and five with Anthrax spores. However, after UNSCOM found evidence for additional missile warheads filled with Anthrax, Iraqi officials suggested that perhaps the numbers of warheads that they had reported as being filled with Botulinum toxin and Anthrax had accidentally been switched. So Anthrax was filled in 16 (and not 5) warheads, according to conflicting Iraqi admissions. How many were actually filled with Anthrax, only the Iraqis know.

Iraqi link with Osama via Mohammed Atta

The Iraq National Congress (INC) has linked Osama bin Laden's network with Iraq. According to the INC, Muhammad Atta, one of the terrorists involved in the World Trade Center event on 11 September, had met an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague. This official whom Atta met, is known to be a close associate with Faruq Hijazi a senior Iraqi intelligence official. In December 1998 Faruq Hijazi, had traveled to Kandahar to meet bin Laden personally. He was accompanied by a group of Iraqi intelligence officers. Hijazi is now Iraq's ambassador in Turkey; he had previously served as head of the foreign covert operations division of the Mukhabarat. Mukhabarat is the Iraqi Intelligence Service.

The Connection between Iraq, Osama, Mohammed Atta and the now detected cases of Anthrax infection

All these events are not mere coincidences and there is an unraveled connection between Iraq, Osama, Mohammed Atta and the now detected cases of Anthrax infection. The biological phase of warfare has started from the week of 8th October - the coming weeks will make this evident.

US official are still tight-lipped on the connections between the Anthrax cases detected in the last few weeks, after a gap of a quarter century, the overflights of Mohammed Atta in the affected region, his meeting with Iraqi intelligence officials in Prague and whether any packets or intelligence about Anthrax was passed on to Atta by the Iraqi intelligence official at Prague.

How can the world can fight this new and terrifying threat of bio-terrorism

The connections between Iraq, Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaida, Mohammed Atta and the now detected cases of Anthrax infection are there for everyone to see. It will be a matter of time, before American officialdom makes a statement to this effect.

But what is critical today is the question of how the world can and should fight this new and terrifying threat of bio-terrorism. According to American officials a confirmed bio-terrorist attack will justify the use of nuclear weapons. A decision that has been kept in limbo since Hiroshima. Lets see how the coming days play out on the bio-terrorism front and the possible response to it. In this context the US assertion that the ongoing military action may soon be extended to other organizations and countries acquires a new meaning.

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