Home-grown terrorism looms amidst terror war
NEW YORK - When the US launched its war against terrorism last month,
President George W. Bush took aim not only at state-sponsored and freelance
terrorists but also against countries that provide safe haven for terrorists
of all political shades and brand names.
But Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi was quick to point out last week
that if the US is serious about its new-found policy, it should really
start by bombing London — and perhaps Toronto.
Both cities are known to harbour a wide variety of terrorists and terrorist
groups - ranging from the LTTE to Iraqi and Libyan opposition exile groups-
who have long been permitted to freely raise funds for a rash of political
causes and map out strategies to destabilise governments.
The terrorist attacks on the US on September 11, however, may change
all that as an increasingly large number of Western nations, including
the UK and Canada, are planning to crack down on these groups.
Belated, no doubt, but still a step forward in the global fight against
The new twist in the American war against terrorism, however, is that
not all of the terrorists plotting against the US are from outside the
The wave of bioterrorism in the US— linked to the spread of the anthrax
bacteria— may well be home-grown and the brainchild of rightwing political
So far, the US has refused to explicitly blame outside groups, although
these groups have not been ruled out.
A White House spokesman was quoted as saying that US officials had concluded
that at least the anthrax found in a letter addressed to Senate majority
leader Tom Daschle "could be produced by a PhD microbiologist in a sophisticated
If that theory is proved right, it would certainly rule out some hole-in-the-wall
laboratory in caves deep inside Afghanistan.
The threat of bioterrorism has also reinforced fears of a new brand
of terrorism: nuclear terrorism.
Muhammad el-Baradei of Egypt, the Director-General of the Vienna-based
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), warned last week that the willingness
of terrorists to commit suicide to achieve their "evil aims" makes the
threat of nuclear terrorism far more credible than it was before September
The IAEA has laid out three possible scenarios. The most devastating—
but least likely— would be the use of a nuclear weapon by terrorists.
The Agency says that this would be unlikely because it would require
advanced industrial facilities and scientific knowledge to manufacture
such a weapon.
Unlikely as it is, the IAEA does not rule out such a possibility.
A second scenario— and a more likely tactic— would be an attack on a
nuclear facility prompting a release of radioactive material into the environment.
A third scenario is the possible use of a so-called "dirty bomb"— a
weapon made of a combination of conventional explosives and radioactive
On Friday, more than 400 experts gathered in Vienna for the IAEA's first
special session on nuclear terrorism trying to figure out how to cope with
the new threat.
Last month UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan gave advanced warning of
possible bio-terrorist attacks when he urged member states to strengthen
existing global treaties against the use or proliferation of weapons of
"The greatest immediate danger arises from a non-state group— or even
an individual— acquiring and using a nuclear, biological or chemical weapon,"
he told the 189-member General Assembly.
Annan said the danger posed by weapons of mass destruction has been
compounded by the fact that they can be deployed without the need for any
missile or other sophisticated delivery systems.
In 1995, the Aum Shinrikyo sect in Japan released a nerve gas called
sarin in the Tokyo subway killing some 12 people and hospitalising over
a thousand others.
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he believes that "enemies
of the United States" would eventually help terrorist groups to obtain
weapons of mass destruction.
Annan told the General Assembly that it is hard to imagine how the tragedy
of Sep. 11 could have been worse.
"Yet the truth is that a single attack involving nuclear or biological
weapons could have killed millions."
While the world was unable to prevent the September 11 attacks, he said,
"there is much we can do to help prevent future terrorist acts carried
out with weapons of mass destruction."
Annan urged member states to redouble their efforts to ensure the universality,
verification, full implementation of key treaties relating to weapons of
mass destruction, including those outlawing chemical and biological weapons
and the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).
The NPT has been signed and ratified by 187 countries, including the
United States. Only four countries— India, Pakistan, Israel and Cuba— have
refused to sign or ratify it.