Algeria: Return of Black Death?

Published January 21st, 2009 - 01:30 GMT

Recently, there were reports an al-Qaeda affiliate abandoned a training camp in Algeria after 40 men died from being exposed to the plague during a biological weapons test. The report, which first published by the British tabloid newspaper The Sun, claimed members of al-Qaeda in the Land of the Maghreb (AQLIM) abandoned their cave hideouts in Tizi Ouzou province, 150 kilometres east of the Algerian capital Algiers, after being exposed to plague bacteria.


It added they apparently became infected while experimenting with biological weapons. The ordeal started after Algerian security forces discovered the body of a dead man alongside a road near the abandoned hideout.


U.S. intelligence officials, speaking to the Washington Times newspaper, confirmed the sudden base closure after an unconventional weapons test went wrong. According to these officials, they intercepted an urgent communication in early January between the AQLIM leadership and al-Qaeda's top leaders in the tribal region of Pakistan. The Algerian side said they were abandoning and sealing off a training area after a leak of a chemical or biological substance.


According to the National Post, there are two types of plague. Bubonic plague, which is spread by bites from infected rat fleas, killed a third of Europe's population in the 14th century but can now be treated with antibiotics. Pneumonic plague is less common but more deadly. It is spread, like the flu, by airborne bacteria, and can be inhaled and transmitted between humans without the involvement of animals or fleas.



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