The Collective
Tuesday, January 20, 2024
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Yesterday via Memeorandum a story from The Sun, the British tabloid, caught my eye: Al-Qaeda terrorists killed by Black Death after the killer bug also known as the plague sweeps through a training camp

At least 40 al-Qaeda fanatics died horribly after being struck down with the disease that devastated Europe in the Middle Ages.

The details of the story were vague and, after all, it was The Sun, so I basically ignored it.

Today, WaTi has the following: Al Qaeda bungles arms experiment

An al Qaeda affiliate in Algeria closed a base earlier this month after an experiment with unconventional weapons went awry, a senior U.S. intelligence official said Monday.

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.

He said authorities in the first week of January intercepted an urgent communication between the leadership of al Qaeda in the Land of the Maghreb (AQIM) and al Qaeda’s leadership in the tribal region of Pakistan on the border with Afghanistan. The communication suggested that an area sealed to prevent leakage of a biological or chemical substance had been breached, according to the official.

Now, I entitled the post “Too Good to Believe” because the story fits too neatly into the worst case fears of terror warriors in way that just seems too perfect.1 And while I am not saying that it is impossible to think that al Qaeda terrorists might attempt to acquire biological weapons, the idea that some AQ franchise in Algeria was dabbling in the Bubonic Plague and it happened to backfire on them just seems too pat. Further, the Sun isn’t exactly a reliable source of news (hence my initial ignoring of the story) and the Washington Times has a history of these types of stories. In Novemeber 2024 it reported that Iraqi and Afghan terrorists were working with Mexican drug cartels and were planning an attack on a US military base in Arizona. It was quite dramatic, but it was also wholly untrue. That story, too, stated that it had official corroboration.

Beyond any of that, if there was, in fact, real evidence that al Qaeda militants had been experimenting with biological weapons, that would be a huge story across all news outlets, and if the experiment had backfired it would be gigantic, even on inauguration day. Even if there was solid evidence that 40 al Qaeda members had accidentally contracted the plague, it would be reported by places beyond The Sun and WaTi. As such, I stand skeptical of the entire story, to put it mildly.

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  1. Indeed, if one looks at Memeorandum, most of the people who are commenting on the story are folks who are extremely pro-war on terror and see the threat from Islamic terror is very dramatic, if not extreme terms. Stories like this tend to fuel their views. []
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10 Responses to “Too Good to Believe? (al Qaeda and the Plague)”

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    1. KipEsquire Says:

      There are cases of bubonic plague all the time in the U.S. southwest (the desert rodents carry the fleas).

      The sad/ironic part is that it is now easily treatable with ordinary antibiotics.

    2. Cnet Says:

      Don’t worry Al Qaeda….Obama just gave back most of your leaders.

      –Saudi national freed by U.S. detention at Gitmo believed to be with al Qaeda now

      –”He is one of a handful of al Qaeda deputies in Yemen,” official says

      –Officials estimate more than 60 freed terrorists may have returned to battlefield

      –President Obama’s order to close Guantanamo sparks debate


      Thanks Obama….dumb.

    3. George Thomas Says:

      This is a dream story: “Al-Qaeda terrorists killed by Black Death after the killer bug also known as the plague sweeps through a training camp”! What goes around comes around; you reap what you sow; you live by the sword, you die by the sword; eye for an eye tooth for a tooth; you get what you deserve! All those sayings come to reality! I love it! When human beings are unwilling to or cannot serve justice and visit retribution on these pathetic cowards, Mother Nature will! I fondly hope it true.

    4. Robert Pepper Says:

      Cnet - if you read the article, you will see that this person/persons was/were released months ago. If we can not detect that a prisoner is an Al Qaeda agent while he is in prison, how can we determine that someone is not an Al Qaeda agent and what is the use of holding them? This is why we need to close this public embarrasement to the bill of rights and the constitution. So in short… read the article before you call Obama or anyone else dumb!

      PS Maybe you should have said Thanks, George Dubya…. DUMB. He is the President who was in charge when they were released.

    5. Dr Ted Baehr Says:

      I am amazed that detainees of Gitmo, who were tortured and held without rights for years and years, would turn against America on their release. That defies explanation in my tiny eggshell brain.

    6. sam wilsonn Says:

      whose to say these detainees aren’t ‘manchurian candidates’ successfully slipped into al quada?

    7. Lhunt Says:

      Maybe it IS a good idea to house the Gitmo terrorists in our prisons. Let the prisoners deal with them like they do with child molestors.

    8. Blue Proctor Says:

      And pray tell all: these Gitmo detainees are innocent because?????…..
      Freed from Gitmo-> Saudi re-education center-> Al-qaeda Terrorist.
      It is a no-brainer folks.

    9. the lightning Says:

      How ignorant, the guy was released months ago under Bush gov… think Obama have done that?? dumb, well, lets first think the situation the country is now after 8 rep. years in charge..? or Obama did it? under who’s goverment 911 happend? then they let it happend….The whole issue is our country can’t have this gitmo camp if we preach no torture, freedom, justice for all….it is non US territory with US officials doing all they want because is not done in the US…then all our preaching is b.s. and the world see it that way…
      We know and is proof, independent of your party, that last 8 years being total failure, and to end the party they bail the ones that sucks peoples money….and the list is a way long to go….
      Lets close the place and put terrorists to sleep, innocents to walk away…

    10. H. B. Says:

      Anyone by now ought to know you can’t argue with right-wingers. They will be blaming Obama for anything at all, even acts of god or things that Bush did. Some here are saying that Obama just freed all the terrorists at Gitmo. He hasn’t freed a single person yet. Bush did, and because many of them turned sour, blame Obama for it.

      The commenter George Thomas, is one of those - Bush frees them, they go back to al Qaeda with their hatred of America newly fired up by torture, they begin more terrorism - and it is OBAMA who gave them their new leaders. Dohh.

      And Blue Proctor omitted, in his list of progression for freed detainees, the part that comes JUST BEFORE “Freed from Gitmo” - “tortured at Gitmo.” If they werent radicals when caught, I’d bet ALL of them are now - thanks a pantload, BUSH.

      Obama has stated that most, or all, of the detainees are dangerous people. He won’t be cavalier about how he deals with them. He may be a softie in his heart, but there’s a steel core in him - he’s a hard-core REALIST, only he isn’t hard-nosed with it. And that is truly rare. These detainees will probably be tried and convicted, as long as there is real evidence for it that was NOT extracted under torture.

      Our rule of law is written under the principle that it is better to free a guilty man than convict an innocent one. If there is not enough evidence against a detainee, he WILL go free. And if the inadequacy is directly because Bush tortured the person, it is Bush’s fault. While it is possible that a lower standard of proof may be permitted for dangerous people like some of these are, it can’t be lowered too far without violating our basic principles. Obama is a Constitutional scholar; he’ll know how much lowering is too much. He’s going to do all he can to see that none of the truly dangerous ones ever sees daylight again as a free man.

      And yes, like it or not, the rule of law, and the rights in our Constitution DO apply to these people. It was BUSH who separated them from those things, thus making prosecuting them that much harder to do. Again, thanks a pantload, BUSH.

      Thinking clearly is NOT one of the many virtues for which the right-wingers are so fondly known. A right-winger is a mindblown thing - either by choice to hold onto hatreds or greedy self-interests, or mindblown directly from a pulpit.

      Either way, mindblown is mindblown, and the attitude across the board is “don’t confuse me with facts.”

      You can’t “unblow” the mindblown, either, so don’t bother trying.

      At least they’re not running things any more. We kicked the bums out.

      Still, the story is a dubious one - even in those Yemen camps they have doctors, and those docs know that antibiotics can cure plague, and if they had none, they’d have found a way to get some. So, unless they had none, and couldn’t find any, this story sounds pretty off the wall. Nor does it make sense that they’d dabble in biological agents that are so easily curable. An outbreak of plague in the free world would be worrisome, but few or no people would die from it. So why bother?

      Now, if the outbreak in Yemen was of Ebola Zaire - now THAT would make me sit up and worry, BIG TIME. To handle that agent, though, requires EXTREME care and very expensive facilities. Even those at the CDC who handle this agent are terrified of it, despite all the precautions in place. If one virus gets into them, they’re dead. Scary.

      Is there somewhere in America where people can take dumbed-down lessons or something? I thought we had an education system…


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