NBC Weapons: January 13, 2003


British police raided an al Qaeda hideout in Britain last week and arrested seven Middle Eastern men who were making ricin, a deadly poison. Normally, ricin is a byproduct of castor oil production. After castor beans are crushed and the oil extracted, the remaining muck contains about five percent ricin (by weight.) This toxic residue is neutralized by boiling and chemical treatment. For centuries, ricin has been used as a poison, usually by putting it in someone's food or drink. Al Qaeda was known to be experimenting with ricin in Afghanistan during the late 1990s, and evidence of this was found in 2001 when their biological weapons development center was captured. It was thought that al Qaeda was going to use the ricin for assassination or spreading terror by contaminating food or water supplies. In theory, ricin could be used to cause massive casualties via a bomb or crop dusting aircraft spreading the poison as a mist that people would inhale. But no one has yet demonstrated this in practice. It's only a theoretical mass murder weapon at the moment. Anyone with ricin poisoning can be cured if they are treated within 24 hours of infection. Unfortunately, the symptoms don't show up until about two days, and death following rather quickly.


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