Terrorist groups have neither the capacity nor the ambition to produce weapons
of mass destruction, former UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix has said at
a conference in Helsinki.
Blix, a former Swedish diplomat responsible for searching Iraq for weapons
of mass destruction (WMD) prior to the US-led invasion, said he was as concerned
about global warming and its long-term effects as about the immediate threat
of terrorists acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
"Support and coordination from states would be needed for terrorists to
produce WMDs," he said, speaking on Thursday at the WMD Terrorism: How
Scared Should We Be? conference.
Blix acknowledged there was a small, but not zero, risk of terrorists laying
their hands on WMDs, and he called for more preventive measures.
"Material and technology are now widespread, and an ability to create
WMDs is also greater," he said.
John Parachini, a political analyst with the California-based Rand Corporation,
said the current threat of terrorists gaining such weapons had perhaps been
"WMDs are not easy to produce," he said, adding that "the mix
of terrorism and WMDs becomes really dangerous if a group or groups form a sort
of connection with a state and get knowledge from states how to produce WMDs".
"WMDs used by al-Qaida is much further off than we think," said Thomas
Sanderson of the Strategic and International Studies' Transnational Threats
He said the attacks on the World Trade Center in 1993 and 2001 showed that
"the intention of terrorist groups to cause major damage is there".
"You don't need to kill thousands of people in order to cause a terrible
effect on a country, as anthrax showed," he added, referring to a scare
soon after the 2001 attacks.
According to Parachini, there have been four known cases in recent history
of non-state actors using non-conventional weapons to wreak havoc: the Rajneeshee
sect's salmonella poisoning of an Oregon town in 1984, the chlorine attack on
the Sri Lankan air force carried out by the Tamil Tigers in 1990, the Aum sect's
release of deadly sarin gas on a Tokyo subway train in 1995 and the deadly anthrax
letters, thought to be of domestic origin, that terrorised the United States