Algeria and the World Health Organization have separately rejected reports that a bubonic plague mishap killed dozens of al-Qaeda operatives at a base in the African state, Agence France-Presse reported today (see GSN, Jan. 21).
"No case of plague of any type has been recorded in any region of Algeria since 2003 in Oran," Algerian Health Ministry spokesman Slim Belkessam said yesterday.
The World Health Organization verified that the 2003 incident was the most recent Algerian case to be reported.
U.S. and British newspapers reported that a failed attempt to weaponize plague bacteria killed roughly 40 members of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb at a site about 60 miles east of Algiers.
Al-Qaeda dismissed the report in a statement on an extremist Web site.
A high-level U.S. intelligence official last month also rejected the plague report, but told the Washington Times that the extremists had apparently suffered exposure to some sort of biological or chemical agent (Agence France-Presse/Google News, Feb. 4).