October 31, 2006


Suspect and A Setback In Al-Qaeda Anthrax Case: Scientist With Ties To Group Goes Free (Joby Warrick, October 31, 2006, Washington Post)

In December 2001, as the investigation into the U.S. anthrax attacks was gathering steam, coalition soldiers in Afghanistan uncovered what appeared to be an important clue: a trail of documents chronicling an attempt by al-Qaeda to create its own anthrax weapon.

The documents told of a singular mission by a scientist named Abdur Rauf, an obscure, middle-aged Pakistani with alleged al-Qaeda sympathies and an advanced degree in microbiology.

Using his membership in a prestigious scientific organization to gain access, Rauf traveled through Europe on a quest, officials say, to obtain both anthrax spores and the equipment needed to turn them into highly lethal biological weapons. He reported directly to al-Qaeda's No. 2 commander, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and in one document he appeared to signal a breakthrough.

"I successfully achieved the targets," he wrote cryptically to Zawahiri in a note in 1999.

Precisely what Rauf achieved may never be known with certainty. That's because U.S. officials remain stymied in their nearly five-year quest to bring charges against a man who they say admitted serving as a top consultant to al-Qaeda on anthrax -- a claim that makes him one of a handful of people linked publicly to the group's effort to wage biological warfare against Western targets.

Rauf, 47, has been under scrutiny in Pakistan since he was detained there for questioning in late 2001, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials who agreed to talk about the case for the first time. But officially he remains free, and Pakistan now says it has no grounds for arrest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 31, 2006 5:07 PM

This case just begs for a bit of wet work. Do we even have people who can do that sort of thing any more?

Posted by: PapayaSF at October 31, 2006 8:12 PM
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