Political and social observations from two aspiring hedgehogs who love the Isaiah Berlin essay.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Here is one of the scarier stories of the week. Telegraph.co.uk reports that bubonic plague has killed over 40 operatives of the Algerian-based Al Qaeda network known as AQLIM (Al Qaeda in the Land of Islamic Maghreb). The new epidemic began in the cave hideouts of AQLIM in Tizi Ouzou province, 150km east of the capital Algiers. The group, led by wanted terror figure Abdelmalek Droudkal, was forced to turn its shelters in the Yakouren forest into mass graves and flee. The group now fears the highly-infectious disease could have spread to other al-Qaeda training camps or Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, the paper said. A source said: "The emirs (leaders) fear surviving terrorists will surrender to escape a horrible death."
However, before one rejoices at divine retribution, consider this follow-up story, also in Telegraph.co.uk: While it was initially believed that the terrorists may have caught the plague through fleas on rats attracted by poor living conditions in their forest hideout, some experts in biological warfare are now speculating that the AQLIM terrorist cell was actively developing the plague virus for use as a biological weapon against western cities.
Even if that suspicion turns out to be hyperbolic speculation, in a world tied closely together by rapid air transportation, even a naturally occurring outbreak of plague presents a danger of spreading beyond the Algerian terrorist camp where it began.
The plague, commonly known as the "Black Death," caused one of the largest pandemics in human history in the 14th century, when it swept across Asia, Europe and North Africa, taking an estimated 75 million lives. Bubonic Plague is spread by bites from infected rat fleas. Symptoms include painful boils in the groin, neck and armpits. In Pneumonic Plague, airborn bacteria spread like flu. Without medication it can be deadly.