If Plague struck North Africa
The official, who spoke on the condition he not be named because of the sensitive nature of the issue, said he could not confirm press reports that the accident killed at least 40 al Qaeda operatives, but he said the mishap led the militant group to shut down a base in the mountains of Tizi Ouzou province in eastern Algeria.
Bubonic Plague is spread by bites from infected rat fleas. Symptoms include painful boils in the groin, neck and armpits. In Pneumonic Plague, airborn bacteria spread like flu. Without medication it can be deadly.
The new epidemic began in the cave hideouts of AQLIM in Tizi Ouzou province, 150km east of the capital Algiers, the Sun reports.
The group, led by wanted terror figure Abdelmalek Droudkal, was forced to turn its shelters in the Yakouren forest into mass graves and flee.
The group now fears the highly-infectious disease could have spread to other al-Qaeda training camps or Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, the paper said.
A source said: “The emirs (leaders) fear surviving terrorists will surrender to escape a horrible death.”
AQLIM bombed the UN headquarters in Algiers in 2007, killing 41.
“Black Death ‘kills al-Qaeda operatives in Algeria’,” Telegraph, 19 January, 2009.
An Algerian I spoke with this morning said, rather aggressively, that he thought the security services probably planted plague in the camp or in some way manipulated the situation in the camp so that it had this result. At this point, these conspiracy theories are not my main interest. Those can be mated out later.
I’d like to engage in a thought experiment, though. Let’s suppose that AQIM, in Tizi Ouzou, densely populated and heavily urban, was able to harness the plague for militant purposes. They either released plague into a local military base or barracks, infecting and killing most of those in the immediate vicinity. How would the Algerian state and military respond, and how would the regional government, plus France respond? That’s part one.
Now for part two. Let’s say that AQIM not only used plague on a military target, but also released it into the dense environs of Tizi Ouzou, Bejaia or Algiers. If they were also able to spread it into Tunisia, through their eastern contacts, the thought experiment becomes more deadly, more interesting. What kind of response from the Tunisian and Moroccan governments, could be expected? What capacity do the states in the Maghreb have to deal with an epidemic like this? How devastating would it be at the human, economic and political levels?