Al Qaida Flag 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
WASHINGTON - The Obama administration is concerned that a dangerous regional arm of al-Qaida is trying to produce the deadly poison ricin to use in attacks against the United States, the New York Times reported on Friday.
Citing unnamed intelligence officials and classified intelligence reports, the newspaper said al-Qaida's affiliate in Yemen has been trying to acquire large quantities of castor beans, used to produce ricin.
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It said the apparent intent was to pack the poison around small explosives that could be exploded to disperse the ricin, a white powdery substance so deadly that a speck can kill if inhaled or taken into the bloodstream.
said the apparent intent was to detonate the explosives in enclosed spaces like a shopping mall or airport.
US President Barack Obama and top security aides were briefed about the threat last year and have received updates since then, but senior US officials said there was no indication an attack was imminent.
noted that there were
limits on ricin's utility as a weapon because it loses its potency in
dry, sunny conditions - like those in Yemen - and is not easily absorbed
through the skin like some other nerve agents.
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Senior administration officials said ricin was among the threats being
tracked by a secret government task force created after printer
cartridges packed with powerful explosives were found in cargo bound for
Chicago in October 2010, according to the Times
It said the task force was working with Saudi officials and with the
remnants of Yemen's intelligence agencies to counter the threat. It said
regional al-Qaida affiliates, especially al-Qaida in the Arabian
Peninsula, were seen as a menace to the United States and US interests
The virtual collapse of Yemen's government has enabled al-Qaida to widen
its control in the country and strengthen its operational ties with al
Shabab, the Islamic militancy in Somalia, the Times
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