Jerusalem bomb had rat poisoning

December 09, 2001


Yediot Ahronot correspondent Limor Shmuel reported in today's edition (Dec. 9, 2001) that one of the bombs that exploded last week in Jerusalem also contained chemical poison apparently rat poisoning. The area around the bomb on Luntz Street was checked after police noted an odd smell.

Investigators found traces of a common poison apparently rat poison that can be readily purchased. It is believed that the bomb contained large quantities of the poison but that most of it burned in the explosion.

This is an update to eight previous dispatches on this email list on the suicide bombs in Haifa and Jerusalem last weekend. The last of which was this morning, Ido Cohen, 17, succumbs to his wounds. Attached below is an article by Dr Stephen Bryen, a former member of President Reagan's Defense Department, on "The New Terrorism."

-- Tom Gross


The New Terrorism
By Dr Stephen D. Bryen

At least one of the bombs that blew up in Jerusalem on December 1st was more than an explosive device packed with nails; the bomb was laced with rat poison.

Rat poison is an interesting choice for a terrorist weapon. While there are different types of rat poison on the market, the most popular rat poisons use anti-coagulants to kill small mammals like rats. The anti-coagulants have names such as warfarin, fumarin, diphacinone and bromadiolone. All of them work in the same way by making it hard or impossible for the body to produce coagulation factors needed to make the blood clot and stop bleeding.

Ingestion of rat poison in the normal way by eating leads to a slow death for a small animal. Every mammal needs to produce clots internally to manage the body and prevent against hemorrhaging. A rat or dog that has eaten poison made with these coagulants will likely succumb after a few days as it first becomes pale and anemic and then has internal hemorrhaging.

Anti-coagulants that are injected into a patient are, of course, much faster acting. Thus, an anti-coagulant-soaked bomb will unleash projectile fragments while will inject the poison directly into the person struck by a fragment.

According to Israel's internal security minister, Uzi Landau, much of the rat poison used in the Jerusalem bomb burned up in the explosion, so the rat poison was not as effective as intended. But had it worked, many more of the 100 or so victims of the bombing who were wounded would have died or suffered considerable agony.

This is not the only type of poison in the hands of terrorists. In the Al Qaeda caves U.S. Marines found quantities of ricin, a deadly poison. Ricin is also produced in Iraq and Iraq's connection with the Palestinians is another source of the spread of this toxin.

Ricin is made from the castor bean plant. Breathing dust that contains ricin causes cough, weakness, fever, nausea, muscle aches, difficult breathing, chest pain, and cyanosis (blue skin). Breathing the dust can result in respiratory and circulatory failure. Exposure to concentrated ricin particles in the air where large numbers of people would likely experience the signs and symptoms in one place and time could cause many fatalities. Injection of ricin toxin would likely result in tissue (muscle) necrosis near the injection site, probable multiple organ failure, and death. All routes of exposure are very dangerous and can result in death.

In September 1978 the Bulgarian dissident, Mr. Georgi Markov, felt a stabbing pain in his right thigh in front of the Waterloo bus station in London. Three days later, in hospital, he died in great agony, succumbing to what was thought of as some strange type of blood poisoning. In fact what had happened was that an umbrella was remanufactured by the KGB and into its tip was placed a small round ball, which contained nearly microscopic indentures, filled with ricin. Thanks to excellent investigative work, the plot hatched between Bulgarian and Soviet intelligence to kill Markov became generally known and was revealed in a 1979 BBC documentary on the Panorama program called "Who Killed Georgi Markov."

Like rat poison, ricin can be packed into bombs. The fact that Al Qaeda was producing the stuff is a cause for major concern.

Many other chemical and biological materials, some commonly available and others specially manufactured can be packed into bombs. In addition, radiological "dust" can also be put into bombs and there is growing evidence that Al Qaeda, with help from Pakistani scientists, was working on radiological weapons. No doubt the same know-how also exists in Iraq, which has nuclear reactors and experienced nuclear scientists.

Judging from what has been happened in the U.S. on September 11th, what is happening in Israel now, and the risk of sleeper agents already in the United States, the security challenge to ferret out terrorists is formidable. It is questionable that self-defense measures will suffice to protect our population from future attacks. President Bush is right that the only alternative open to us is to go after the terrorists and their supporters and destroy them. Now, as Al Qaeda is collapsing in Afghanistan, we are entering a period of acute danger, and it is imperative that we act quickly and ruthlessly before more, and deadlier, terrorist incidents take place.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.