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An Analysis of The Use of Biological Weapons in Terrorism

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Terrorists use violence for the purpose of creating a wide range of fear to its target population. It’s a way of bringing their specific political objective to be known. The menace of terrorism has been systematically and widely been practiced by various groups for right and leftist objectives. Some of these political organizations include revolutionaries, religious groups, and even state institutions like police, armies and also intelligence services. Revolutionary warfare employs terror to achieve its purpose, however, terrorism has a certain strategic plan which is quite different in comparison to those of national or political organizations aiming to take charge of a state. The use of violence means towards non-combatants by politically motivated terrorist has in the 21 century become one of most great concern to many nations across the globe. This old phenomenon of demoralizing and intimidation, have led to many lives being lost and severally victims left with both physical and psychological injuries. The terror attack that occurred in the US on September 11, opened a new level of possibility of more lethal attacks to inflict maximum damages to innocent civilians. Lives of more than 3,000 people were lost as a result of simultaneous attacks which were the responsibility of al-Qaeda terrorist group. Due to this attack, the infrastructures and buildings running into billions of dollars were incurred. This elaborates the intense a single terror attack can do to a nation. This terror group had its terror cells stationed in many countries around the world which could reconstitute and reshape as commanded by their senior echelon of leaders. The al-Qaeda terror group was a no state organization which could strike its target when list expected. In recent times the use of biological has become one of the terrorist next method to further advocate their evil agenda. In this research paper, the discussion will be about biological weapons and creation of an action plan to stop bioterrorism.

The historical background of biological weapons

Underdeveloped types of biological weapons have been used many centuries back. It is known that during the 6th century BC, the fungus was used by Assyrians to poison enemy wells and hence render them rambling. Increase in knowledge about germ theory propelled the advancement of various techniques in microbiology which has led to sophisticated bio-agents. During World War I, the Imperial German government used anthrax and glanders in biological sabotage. Some other notable are of use of a biological agent is in the pre-Christian era, about 300 B.C., animal corpses were used by Greeks to contaminate the wells of their sworn enemies. The strategy was also practiced by the Romans and Persians. The battle of Tortona in Italy gives another example of the use of bio-agents to contaminate water of their enemies. Emperor Barbarossa’s soldiers used the remains of dead soldiers and animals to carry out this objective. When plague stroked the Tartars army in the 14th century during the siege of Kaffa, the Tartars catapult the corpses of their dead comrades towards the walls of Kaffa city, this resulted to a drastic change in the stand-off. The Genoese fled the city and talk with them the disease.

Additional evidence of usage of biological war can be traced during the blockade of Carolstein, it is believed that the Lithuanian soldiers catapulted dead bodies of captured soldiers into the city. There was widespread of fever across the city population which made them be extremely scared. Between the years (1754-1767) during French-Indian War, a commander of the British army, ordered distribution of blankets infected with smallpox to hostile Indian tribes in order to counter their population. The resurgence of the virus lasted among these indigenous people for a period of more than 200 years.

Biological weapons

Another term that can be used as a biological weapon is germ weapon. These are a certain number of disease-producing agents such as viruses, fungi, bacteria, rickettsiae, toxins and many other biological agents. These biological agents may be used by a terrorist as weapons against humans for the purpose of harming them with the intention of pushing their agenda forward. Just like chemical weapons, nuclear weapons, and radiological weapons, biological weapons can also be referred to as weapons of mass destructions. The term “weapon of mass destruction” may not be quite appropriate, when used to describe biological armaments. Biological weapons are not capable of destruction of buildings, equipment’s and infrastructure systems as compared to the other but can cause massive death when released to the population. However, due to indiscriminative and lethal nature of biological weapons, most of the countries have agreed to classify it as a weapon of mass destruction. Biological weapons are capable of setting off a pandemic that is hard to control. In the year 1972, Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), opened for signature in order to prohibit its member states from developing, producing, stockpiling, deploying and testing biological weapons. Nevertheless, the majority of these member states have adamantly continued to engage in testing their biological capabilities, to seek for cheaper but deadly weapons as opposed to the expensive process of making nuclear weapons. The threat of terrorist manufacturing or taking by force of these biological weapons is imminent and one of the emerging security concern.

The types of organism used in the process of making these weapons affect their lethality, stability, time of incubation, infectiousness and the process of reversing the effect of the weapons by use of current medicines and vaccines. The five biological organism that can be used to make biological weapons are as follows:

Bacteria— this is a single-cell microbe that results in diseases such as plague anthrax, brucellosis, and tularemia.

Rickettsia— can be described as a microbe that has a similar appearance as bacteria but is different in the sense that they are intracellular parasites and multiply by that reproducing inside cells. Some of the notable disease caused by rickettsia include Typhus and Q fever.

Viruses—this are intracellular parasites, their size is approximately 1/100 compared to the size of bacteria, they can be bioengineered to cause diseases such as Venezuelan equine encephalitis.

Fungi—pathogens can be processed and create destructions of food crops by causing diseases such as rice blast, cereal rust, wheat smut, and potato blight.

Toxins—these are poisons gotten from plants and animals and can be extracted and used as biological weapons. Snakes, insects, spiders, marine organisms, plants, bacteria, and fungi are some of those used. An example of a toxin is ricin, which is extracted from the seeds of the castor beans.

Biological agents which can be used to cause devastation are easily produced, cheap, and have a very high probability of inflicting maximum damage even when a small amount is used for attacks. Through the use of the internets, unemployed scientists and other available documents, procedures, and processes for preparing these bioweapons are becoming increasingly accessible. Getting access to these pathogens is quite easy since most occur naturally within our environment or are being researched in labs, universities or in military facilities. Terrorists can even council these bioweapons facilities in legitimate industrial facilities.


Deliberate harming of people, animals, or plants by use of biological agents such as; bacteria, viruses, toxins or any other biological agent, is what is termed as bioterrorism. Most of these biological agents are zoonotic in nature which has brought much concern and heightened awareness on the use of animals in terrorism. Animal caregivers and farmers are the ones who can diagnose and spot the early cases of these barbaric act when animals are used. Documentation of these biological agents which can be used in an act of terrorism has been classified into A, B and C categories. In class A, the agents and disease are easily transmitted from animals to humans, person to person, and can cause a very high mortality rate and overwhelm the public facilities in the affected area. In this category A, an exception is given for smallpox since it does not have an animal reservoir. The agents in category B are not as lethal as those in category A. These agents if released, result in lower mortality and morbidity rates. The agents and diseases in category C, are the emerging pathogens which can be manipulated through engineered to cause mass dissemination. Although the society has been informed about the precautionary measures to use in preventing bioterrorism, much is still to be done in order to completely terminate it. More advanced modern laboratory equipment and skilled scientists are required to scrutinize disease agents, control and investigate these pathogens. Strick international measures should be put in place for the sole purposes of controlling the access of these dangerous biological agents by an authorized personnel. Regular and routine checks should be done on animals to check diseases that may emanate from acts of terror. Scientists and veterinarians working in research laboratories should be given the vital role of active surveillance for these biological agents and diseases so as to prevent and eliminate bioterrorism agents.

Action plan to stop bioterrorism

The risk of a bioterrorism attack is somehow different from other forms of terror attacks that we face today, for example, improvised explosives or chemical or the threat of nuclear attacks. Since the nature of the biological attack is similar to the commonly occurring diseases and other infectious ailments, a more advanced strategy is required. Thoughtful understanding of epidemic diseases is needed to curb this threat. Different forms of approaches and cooperation’s between individual countries are required.

The programmes that are put in place by nations to prevent attacks are inadequate without proper investments with various partners’ states. Biological terrorism is a global threat and cannot be taken lightly as a “lights and sirens” form of attack. In case biological attack has occurred, there is no immediate signal to clearly distinguish it from that of a naturally occurring disease. The attack will most likely unfold as an epidemic, infecting the majority of the population before the authority realize it’s an attack towards its citizens. Identification of an attack would most likely be noted when affected victims start showing up in hospitals with similar symptoms or mysterious ailments. Moreover, it will be impossible to trace the culprits or the area where the disease was released- or clarify if the disease was occurring naturally or it was a terror attack.

In case of terror attacks, the first people who will most likely to detect the problem would be the medical practitioner. However, in most circumstances, detection of the problem would be delayed, this is due to the fact that most medical facilities may lack the required diagnostic equipment to precisely analyze the samples of these biological agents. Unfortunately, even if the correct diagnosis is made, there will be the marginal rate of interventions and success. Due to the contagion or prolonged exposure to the general population, there is a great window of the outbreak to persist for months to years. The accuracy and speed of diagnosing and intervention to a biological attack are paramount to reducing fatality and managing the outbreak.

Response to the threat of bioweapons

Even if there is immense task ahead of us, several strategic action plan is within our reach. The required precautions are already laid out, however, they either need to be expanded or restructured; additional initiatives and policies need to be formulated and embedded in the current ones. Maybe the most vital action to implement is to acknowledge that health practitioners are part of this important team of national security team when fighting bioterrorism. Public health experts should be involved in the National Security Council and be involved in Homeland Security.

Nowadays, security personnel’s have supported the initiative of availing modern equipment so as to help public health systems to diagnose, track, and prevent these contagious diseases. These facilities are one of the major pillars in containing these bioterror attacks in case they do occur. It is now high time for the government to fund these neglected, undercapitalized and fragmented public health facilities in order to be prepared in case of bioterror attacks. Uplifting these facilities is going to involve an enormous amount of investments from the government. To start with, there is need to strengthen and expand capable and effective monitoring system that can speedily detect and relay accurate information regarding any suspicious symptoms or infections. This will require increasing and funding the current epidemiologic competence, retaining medical personnel on new procedures to follow and furthermore constructing more laboratories and equipping them with machines that can speedily and accurately identify these dangerous pathogens. Another measure that needs to be put in place is having communication systems that are linked to various health facilities. This will enhance the exchange of vital information between various groups which will be involved in case of a bioterror attack.

In conclusion, preventing bioterror attack prior to its happening is the greatest precaution to avert disaster. Bosting intelligence about proliferation and manufacturing of biological weapons is an ounce of prevention. Surveillance team will benefit in great extent from data and reports from medical experts about their scientific findings. To achieve this, a great amount of co-operation between the intelligent department, public health, law enforcers and researchers is required. Since most of the laboratories are legit, a close monitoring and regulation are required to prevent tools of current genomic biology do not end up developing biological pathogens. Safe handling and storage of these scientific materials are required in controlling their availability. The government is supposed to ensure proper registration process and monitor import and export of these dangerous pathogens. The intended use of biological agents should be clearly documented and disclosed. Finally, International partnering will seal the deal of preventing and stopping the threat posed bioterror attacks.

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An Analysis of the Use of Biological Weapons in Terrorism. (2018, April 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 7, 2021, from
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