Last Sunday’s Lisa Benson Show had a segment on the possible Chemical and Biological threat posed by ISIS to Europe and the West in the wake of the November 13th Massacres in Paris and the battle in the predominately Muslim St. Denis banlieuse suburb. Belgium and especially Brussels continues under lockdown as there could be another series of devastating attacks by ISIS operatives given the significant presence in the significant Muslim population with radicalized elements in suburban Molenbeek. On the Lisa Benson Show segment we asked why French Premier Manuel Valls had raised concerns over possible ISIS operatives use of chemical and biological agents? Dr. Jill Bellamy, noted bio-warfare threat reduction expert, whom we have interviewed in the NER, provided some answers. See our January 2013 interview her, The Dangers of Syria’s Bio-Warfare Complex Should Assad Fall.
Following the program, Dr. Bellamy posted her assessment of what triggered Valls ‘comments; the theft of bio-protection suits and threats to France water supply system. See her Biological Warfare blog post, “France and Belgium Prepare for CBW Attacks While Europe Sleeps.”
In May 2013, we posted on the possible terrorist to U.S. water supply systems after two incidents had occurred. We refer to the arrest and arraignment by federal prosecutors in Manhattan of Ahmed Abassi, a Tunisian national and chemical engineering graduate of Laval University in Quebec, on Asylum fraud and an alleged WMD attack on a municipal water system, the Quabbin reservoir in Massachusetts. The possible biological agent involved is cryptosporidium (Crypto). We noted:
In the U.S. we have had two mass Crypto outbreaks in water supply systems in Carrollton, Georgia in 1987 and in Milwaukee in 1993. The Georgia outbreak affected 13,000 out of 16,000 residents. Because the Milwaukee water supply system draws from Lake Michigan, Crypto pathogens might have entered from drainage or in ice breakup during the early spring. In the Milwaukee case, the epidemiologists and public health specialists estimate that more than 400,000 succumbed to Crypto causing massive outbreaks of watery diarrhea over a period of two weeks or more. 108 deaths occurred involving those with immune deficiencies from cancer treatment, AIDS and other maladies. Within immunocompromised communities, exposure frequently leads to severe and permanent diarrhea, decreasing absorption of nutrients resulting in progressive dehydration and eventual death.
Here are excerpts from Dr. Bellamy’s Biological Warfare post.
On the missing bio-protection suits and Eau de Paris water supply.
While France and Belgium prepare their populations for continued terrorist attacks and the possible use of chemical or biological weapons, other EU states avoid the obvious conclusion that a prepared public is better than an unprepared one. Several smaller states, excluding Spain and Germany, continue the drum beat that there is no significant threat to them or their civilian populations. In study after study this has not been proven to be the case and public preparedness has been shown to reduce casualties. PM Valls statement on the bio-chem threat was in part motivated by the apparent loss of several bio-chem suits from a Paris hospital. While its possible these suits were misplaced or that inventory lists were incorrect, and warnings are not based singularly on bio-chem suits being unaccounted for, the French have taken appropriate measures. Belgium has increased security at its nuclear facilities and France has increased protection for water supply facilities taking note of analysis by French intelligence that ISIS is capable of producing crude chemical agents.
“Eau de Paris, the capital’s state-run water company, has banned access to six sensitive sites to all but key personnel following the Government’s decision to declare a state of emergency for three months.”Our eight security agents are the only ones to be accredited by the defense ministry and are in permanent contact with the terrorism cell of Paris police headquarters,” a spokesman told Le Parisien.” “The storage and treatment sites have protective fencing and special sensors to detect intrusion. To limit the risk of contamination, Eau de Paris has increase the amount of chlorine added to water at five supply sites.” “The dose injected has been raised,” said Celia Blauel, president of Eau de Paris. Chlorine is a key indicator of any anomaly in the water. “When the chlorine level drops, it means there is a biological contamination.” she said.”
“It emerged last week that hospitals and emergency services across France have been supplied with the most powerful antidote to sarin and other nerve gas chemicals for the first time. Under a November 14 decree, the army’s medical service was ordered to distribute stocks of the drug atropine. Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, said that the country could rule nothing out when it came to terrorists bent on mass murder, including “chemical and biological weapons”.
On French and Belgian CBW intelligence and threat reduction capabilities.
The security services of both France and Belgium are to be commended. Both countries share similar population demographics and have extensive experience with terrorism. Additionally, they have both worked, since 911, to prepare their populations for such bio-chem attacks, some of these scenarios I developed and ran myself with their government officials in attendance. Far from being the weakest link, as some media outlets have portrayed the situation, they are in fact the best prepared within the EU to counter such threats. The weakest link are those countries who have not prepared their public, are currently bombing IS and have announced it on the nightly news without one moment of thought to the risk they have placed their population in and no counter-terrorism or counter intelligence experience to fall back on.
In 2005, French Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin called for international cooperation against bioterrorism at an Interpol meeting in Lyon. He promoted the idea of creating a joint database and a rapid alert network for theft, diversion and illegal transfer of biological agents, as well as a list of designated groups and individuals of concern. De Villepin also proposed the creation of an international center for monitoring bio terrorist threats. Mr. de Villepin went on to plead for a better coordination of Biotox style (the French government response to the deliberate introduction of the smallpox virus) plans at European level. “Why not to imagine for example a European reaction plan against a biological attack?”he asked. Furthermore, he added, the EU should initiative an update on reserves of vaccines so that each country knows the nearest country to turn to in case of emergency.” See: http://cordis.europa.eu/news/rcn/23453_en.html.
For over a decade the French government has established itself as the gold standard when it comes to bio-security, bio-safety and certainly countering, on the ground threats from would be bio-terrorists. In 2003, French authorities discovered ricin like substances in Gare du Lyon train station. Subsequently nine suspects of North African descent, who had trained in the Pankisi Gorge and were associated with AQ were arrested. While this is just one high profile example of a possible bio-threat, the French have developed outstanding and what I would describe as comprehensive capabilities to counter the threat of bio-terrorism. This depth of expertise offers a lot from which Member States within the EU could well benefit.
As well, as we trust the U.S. and UK bio-terrorism threat reduction programs.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.