Why Mass Casualty Preparedness and Response is Crucial

Ever since the post-9/11 Anthrax attacks, counterterrorism and public health officials have worried about a bio attack on US soil that could kill and sicken tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people. Today, counterterrorism officials most fear an attack using virulent and lethal biological pathogens. Yet the nation, by most authoritative accounts, remains woefully unprepared for not just a bio attack, but any mass-casualty attack. Consequently, the failure to ensure preparedness for what authorities fear the most means the nation is unprepared for mass casualties … period.

Seasoned and veteran counterterrorism officials agree that Islamist jihadi organizations appear tohave a greater interest in acquiring and using biological and radiological weapons and that Al Qaeda is known to have experimented with weaponizing a number of highly virulent pathogens.

In 2005, Homeland Security Today first reported that Al Qaeda had worked on plans to send squads of "bio martyrs" who would deliberately infect themselves with a human transmittable strain of bird flu once such a strain become a human contagion or a human transmissible form clandestinely bio-engineering to be easily passed between humans,  and then spread the virus as widely around the world as they couldpossible by traveling on one international flight after another, officials said at the time. During the height of the Ebola outbreak, intelligence surfaced indicating that jihadi organizations were discussing doing the same thing with the Ebola virus.

Given a long enough sanctuary period to plan, recruit and get together the necessary lab facilities and experts, terrorists can isolate and weaponized pathogens, counterterrorist experts say. There are now areas, such as Iraq and Syria, where jihadists have the time and sanctuary to develop these weapons.

Read the complete article in the April 2016 issue of Homeland Security Today.

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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