Since this comes from The Sun, whose journalistic credentials run more towards the busty babes of Page 3 than serious counter-terrorist information, take this with a huge, Lot’s Wife-sized grain of salt. However, in terms of karma, nothing seems more fitting for a group of terrorists for whom “medieval” would be an improvement than to start dying from the Black Death. According to their sources, al-Qaeda units in North Africa have begun dying from bubonic plague, and they may have spread their 14th-century disease to Pakistani camps:
At least 40 al-Qaeda fanatics died horribly after being struck down with the disease that devastated Europe in the Middle Ages.
The killer bug, also known as the plague, swept through insurgents training at a forest camp in Algeria, North Africa. It came to light when security forces found a body by a roadside.
The victim was a terrorist in AQLIM (al-Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb), the largest and most powerful al-Qaeda group outside the Middle East.
It trains Muslim fighters to kill British and US troops.
Now al-Qaeda chiefs fear the plague has been passed to other terror cells — or Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.
The cells the Sun references hide out 100 miles outside of Algiers. AQLIM was known previously as GSPC, the largest Islamist terrorist group outside of AQ until they merged with it and recognized Osama bin Laden’s leadership. The two networks exchange couriers and cross-train, which would make an outbreak of the plague a very big problem for both groups. Because plague is asymptomatic for a few days, up to a week, transmission between people (especially of the airborne variety) gets facilitated, and it can spread like … well, like the plague.
Is this for real? Perhaps, although it could also be a form of psy-op. Plague can be treated if addressed quickly with the right medicines, but AQ doesn’t have the capability in either Algeria or Pakistan. Terrorists would have to surrender to get treatment, and that might be the point of the story — to frighten terrorists into surrendering and then getting intel on their leadership.
It’s easy to wish the plague on AQ, but it might cause more problems in the long run, especially in Pakistan. The Taliban integrates tightly into rural communities in the isolated areas of Waziristan and the NWFP. If the plague did follow the Taliban back to these areas, it could touch off an epidemic that could cross the border into Afghanistan and ravage both nations, as well as the NATO forces fighting terrorism on the Afghanistan frontier.