FT: Caucasus terrorists have chemical/bio weapons
The Financial Times reports that Muslim militants associated with Al Qa’ida and Ansar al-Islam in Georgia and Chechnya have developed the biological agent ricin and are moving into western Europe via Turkey. The trail was first picked up by in north London after British police arrested Islamic militants on Jan. 5, breaking up a production facility there.
Ricin is a toxin derived from the beans of the castor plant, and can easily be produced as an aerosol spray or fine powder. Once inhaled, it usually begins working within eight hours. Initial symptons include weakness, fever, cough and finally pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) 18 to 24 hours after inhalation. This is followed by severe respiratory distress and death from hypoxemia (reduced oxygen supply to tissue) in 36 to 72 hours. Treatment for pulmonary edema is the usual prescription and medical masks can be effective in blocking the particles from being inhaled.
As scary as ricin is, it’s not well suited to a being a weapon of mass destruction as it settles out of the air relatively quickly. It is well-suited to assassinations, however, most famously being used by the Bulgarian secret police o kill dissident Georgi Markov during the Cold War in 1978. It was also tested, according to the CIA so take that for what it’s worth, by — surprise! — Iraq at the Jurf al-Sakr Firing Range in September 1989 in 155mm artillery shells with a capacity of three liters. I’ve seen reports that it is fatal if 1/10 millionth of a gram is inhaled.