Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Black Death 'kills al-Qaeda operatives in Algeria'

Telegraph | The Black Death has reportedly killed at least 40 al-Qaeda operatives in North Africa. The disease, which struck Europe in the Middle Ages killing more than 25 million people, has swept through a training camp for insurgents in Algeria.

The arrival of the plague was discovered when security forces found the body of a dead terrorist by a roadside, the Sun reports.

The victim belonged to the large al-Qaeda network AQLIM (al-Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb).

A security source told the paper: "This is the deadliest weapon yet in the war against terror. Most of the terrorists do not have the basic medical supplies needed to treat the disease.

"It spreads It spreads quickly and kills within hours. This will be really worrying al-Qaeda."

Black Death comes in various forms and was one of the deadliest pandemics in human history when it struck in the 1340s killing 75 million people across North Africa, Asia and Europe.

The new epidemic began in the cave hideouts of AQLIM in Tizi Ouzou province, 150km east of the capital Algiers, the Sun reports.

The group, led by wanted terror figure Abdelmalek Droudkal, was forced to turn its shelters in the Yakouren forest into mass graves and flee.
Contrary to popular opinion, the Black Death was not caused by bubonic plague. Bubonic plague - a bacterial infection - has an incubation period of about 6 days, while the demographic records of the period clearly show that the Black Death - almost certainly a hitherto undocumented viral hemorrhagic fever - had a far longer incubation period. Disease transmission for the Black Death had to be person to person rather than via rat fleas or the experience with quarantine would have been ineffective. In addition, plague locations such as Britain were outside the geographic range of the black rat believed to be the carrier.

Bubonic plague is curable with antibiotics, whereas viral hemorrhagic fever (similar to Ebola and Marburg but with droplet transmission) is not, and has an extraordinarily high mortality rate. Interestingly, there is a genetic form of resistance that appears to have developed in Europe as a result of endemic exposure to the Black Death over hundreds of years.

The Return of the Black Death by Susan Scott and Christopher Duncan