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Bioterrorism and Surrounding Issues


Bioterrorism is a terror activity where biological techniques (living agents) like biological toxins, viruses, or bacteria are adopted to intimidate governments or society for ideological or political reasons to cause deaths, fear, or widespread illnesses like smallpox and anthrax. Since Iraqi’s biological weapon program discovery, there has been a concern for biological warfare occurrence. This paper reviews some of the al Qaeda attacks, the motivation, the mass casualties, panic, and disorder that accompany these attacks and their impacts.

Attacks by al Qaeda and others

Many states have developed biological war programs. In the past century, Iraq Japan, Germany, U.S the former Soviet Union, and Britain had a plan for the development of biological weapons of mass destruction. Iraq is said to have developed large amounts of this weapon in the 1980s as alleged by the U.S. Since that time, small radical groupings have made efforts to create fear in large groups of people through bioterrorism. In 1984 for example, a group called Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh made an attempt to incapacitate people to participate in a local election by infecting restaurant salad bars, doorknobs, grocery stores produce, and more public domain using Salmonella typhimurium bacteria in Dalles, Oregon. It left seven hundred and twenty-one food poisoning casualties.

In the month of June 1993, in Tokyo, Aum Shinrikyo, a religious group released anthrax; a foul odor was reported by eyewitnesses though the attack was a failure. On the 20th of March 1995, Aum Shinrikyo attacked Tokyo again using Sarin gas which they unleashed into cars on the Tokyo subway; this led to many deaths and injuries including the death of Murakami, a Japanese novelist.

In 2001, there were several bioterrorist anthrax cases in the U.S Anthrax laced letters were delivered to congress offices and news media offices where at least five people were killed (Takahashi et al., 2004)

Motivation for bioterrorism

According to Osama Bin Laden, the main reason for Al Qaeda attacks in the U.S is to push the American government to change some foreign policies for the Middle East and ensure America’s support for Israel is stopped. There are many other reasons behind terrorist’s attacks, they include; The need to pass a message across like if a certain community is not comfortable with the acts or suppression from another community then they perform acts of terror to communicate the seriousness of their point, to scare people, to intimidate a government by showing how insecure the people are or should be, to punish a certain community like to punish the American society for its efforts to suppress al Qaeda acts. Some people get into acts of terror just to gain fame and sometimes to please their supporters by proving they can do it. It can also be to promote the political and civil rights of a given community. Some communities perform terrorism as a way of passing their grievance on such issues as global inequality in resource distribution between the developed and the developing countries hence the need for the developed countries to support the economic growth of the developing nations to reduce inequality between the two regions (Cronin, 2004).

Mass casualties in terrorism

They refer to any large number of casualties from a single source, in particular, a short period of time like from a plane crash, bus accident, building collapse, etc. Terrorist attacks are always bound to have massive impacts on not just the people but property and the environment as well. Some of the impacts on the people would include loss of life, massive injuries from the effects of the terror weapons, and from falling objects like buildings.

Bioterrorism does not necessarily cause deaths but widespread illness among the people living within close proximity to the point of bioterrorist attacks like in Oregon town, U.S 1984, a cult used Salmonella in the contamination of salad bars with an intention of influencing an election, this led to no deaths but the cult succeeded in making about 751 people ill. A loose linkage in the transnational networks influenced trends in terrorism where religious ideologies for mass casualties are replacing the traditional terror influenced mainly by politics (Pate, 2001).

For these mass casualties, specific central points are targeted for bioterrorist attacks, these areas include; mass transportation systems like airplanes, trains, and large capacity buses, shopping centers where people are bound to recollect daily for their home-based daily shopping, hospitals which are bound to have a large number of people each and every day, and sports arena during a sporting event that is expected to be packed.

Panic disorder

When one is exposed to some severe attacks, he or she is likely to develop a disorder where he anticipates a similar situation or is always anxious due to intense fear. This situation is characterized by such disorders as stomach distress, dizziness, breath shortness, heart palpitations, and chest pain. In an event of recurrent bioterrorist attacks, one is bound to develop the fear that he or she is likely to be exposed any time and maybe die. This mental disorder can cause a lasting mental situation in some people. This condition impairs one’s ability to function. Living in a country like Iraq highly exposes one to terror-related panic attacks as they are exposed to terror bombings and bioterrorism hence at no point are most of the citizens at peace as there can be an attack at any moment, this contributes greatly to underdevelopment as most of the citizens do not get the opportunity to settle, focus and concentrate on development in their country they instead live with the fear of an attack any moment (Pate, 2001).

Impacts of Bioterrorism

Bioterrorism is associated with a number of risks that include; death as some of the biological components of the bio-terror may be lethal and the utilization of the fumes, water, or foods containing these molecules may lead to death, chronic illnesses like cancer are sometimes acquired from bioterrorism and their effects run down generations. It has an economic impact especially due to the preparedness where people have to vaccinate against bioterrorism-based illnesses like anthrax and smallpox among others. Sometimes there are aftermath illnesses like cancers, anthrax, and smallpox whose treatment can be expensive. Due to the fear of attack, people develop psychological disorders like panic disorder that will then lead to social strain as these people will develop a different character and health facilities may strain in an effort to attend to the victims.


Bioterrorism is becoming largely adopted to replace the traditional form of terrorism that involved bombing crowded buildings like shopping centers and malls, sports arenas, transport facilities like airplanes, trains, and busses. In traditional bombing as a form of terrorism the impact was easier to determine and detect unlike in bioterrorist bombing where it will be realized after its widespread effects on the people are detected in terms of illness and maybe deaths. As much as it will be determined, detecting the exact source or location of the bombing may take time and hence the effects are more adverse hence riskier compared to the traditional form of terrorism. The spread of bioterrorism calls for major concerns from both the citizens and the government to determine the reasons or driving forces behind this risky activity and to protect citizens from the effects through preparedness.


Cronin, K.A. (2004). Terrorists attacks by Al Qaeda.Web.

Pate, J. (2003). Anthrax and Mass-Casualty Terrorism: What is the Bioterrorist Threat After September 11? U.S. Foreign Policy Agenda, Vol. 6, No. 3.

Takahashi H, Keim P, Kaufmann AF, Keys C, Smith KL, Taniguchi K, et al.(2004 ). Bacillus anthracis Incident, Kameido, Tokyo, 1993. Web.


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