21 December 2010
The US Department of Homeland Security has reportedly discovered a plot devised by a cell of the Islamist terror network al-Qaeda of Osama Bin-Laden to poison buffets and salad bars at several hotels and restaurants in the United States over a single weekend. The broadcaster CBS reported the story on Monday. An unnamed US official called the threat "credible", and Department of Agriculture and FDA officials reportedly briefed security officers from the American hotel and restaurant sector.
The same al-Qaeda-affiliated terror group that attempted to bomb cargo planes in October was reportedly behind the plan to slip two deadly poisons – ricin and cyanide – into salad bars and buffets. The attacks are part of what al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) called ‘Operation Hemorrhage’, which consists of attacking the enemy with smaller but more frequent operations. October's attacks on UPS planes from Yemen headed for the US were apparently also part of the operation. The terror group's websites feature manuals and videos explaining how to make both poisons.
Susan Ford, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences, said on the CBS program that such an attack "would look very much like food poisoning," but only 250mg of sodium cyanide was fatal. Department of Security spokesman Sean Smith told CBS: "We are not going to comment on reports of specific terrorist planning. However, the counterterrorism and homeland security communities have engaged in extensive efforts for many years to guard against all types of terrorist attacks, including unconventional attacks using chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear materials. Indeed, Al-Qaida has publicly stated its intention to try to carry out unconventional attacks for well over a decade, and AQAP propaganda in the past year has made similar reference. Finally, we get reports about the different kinds of attacks terrorists would like to carry out that frequently are beyond their assessed capability."
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