More efforts needed to deter bio-terrorism



"I have no doubt that the threat of bio-terrorism is real and that we need to do more to prepare countries," Interpol Secretary-general Ronald K. Noble said addressing the opening session of a regional workshop on the subject here on Monday.

Inspector-general of Police and Customs Lieutenant-general Malick bin Suleiman Al Ma’amari was the guest of honour. Delegates from 15 countries from North Africa and the Middle East are taking part in the three-day workshop that aims at educating senior law enforcement officials on preventing bio-terrorism.

The speakers’ panel includes renowned international experts in the field. Noble underlined the need for governments to enforce appropriate laws and provide the necessary funding for law enforcement as a first major step to confront bio-terrorist attacks.

Only then, he said, could a country say it was taking the necessary steps to protect its citizens and that it had made significant advances in preparedness. "For most people who are not involved in law enforcement, the threat of a bio-terrorism attack is not something they can easily imagine.

Even within the law enforcement community, allocating scarce resources at the national level to preventing, preparing for or responding to a bio-terrorist attack is viewed as a luxury that few can afford," Noble noted, adding: "Indeed, prior to 2004, even Interpol, with its network of over 180 countries at the time, devoted little thought, no training and none of its resources to this form of terrorist threat."

"By 2004, many of us were already beginning to forget about the anthrax attacks that struck US in 2001. We were forgetting those attacks revealed how woefully unprepared we were to defend ourselves, our staff and our citizens against such attacks."

Citing an example, he said there had recently been no fewer than three chlorine bomb attacks targeting the public in Iraq. "It is not difficult to imagine these attacks being extended from chemical to biological," he observed.

General Ma’amari said Oman would always stay alert and be prepared to face any bio-terrorist attacks in spite of the absence of any terrorist organisations or violent acts at the individual or group level.

"Biological terrorism poses a serious challenge before the law enforcement agencies, because it is an indiscriminate aggression," he added.

He said the country’s security agencies constantly monitored changes that were taking place in the world and studied the prevailing situations "to avoid the occurrence of any event that might affect security in the country."

Necessary legislations

It was important, he stressed, to be vigilant and prepared for any eventualities. "Therefore, the Sultanate has enacted the necessary legislations and rules to combat terrorism and control it," he added.

General Ma’amari said biological terrorism posed a serious challenge before the law enforcement agencies "because it is an indiscriminate aggression targeting people, installations or specific sites, and its effects and results might reach innocent people and installations which might not be the intended targets."

He also remarked that biological terrorism had recently switched to various forms and "is using methods and means which lead to horrific results and destruction."


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