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Threat of Chemical Attack in Europe Underestimated, French Official Says

European security services have underestimated the capacity of terrorists in Europe to develop chemical weapons, according to a senior French counter-terrorism official.

"We have underestimated the terrorists' willingness and capacity to develop chemical weapons," the Financial Times quotes an unnamed French counter-terrorism official as saying. Furthermore, the official told the British daily that small cells of chemical experts are active in several European countries and have devised a way of communicating with each other without being detected. "The thing that is most clear is that the people with the knowledge of chemicals are very organized," said the official. Two suspected chemical attacks - in the UK and France - have already been foiled this year. In January, a group of five men was apprehended near Lyons in France under suspicion of terrorism. Two of these men later revealed a plot to attack Russian targets in France using ricin poison and botulinum bacteria. More recently in the UK, a possible plan was uncovered to use osmium tetroxide in an attack - a chemical which causes blindness and death. But anti-terrorism forces now seem faced with a more organized web of chemical experts. "There are links between the groups that have chemical expertise," the official said. "These groups are not present everywhere, though Chechnya is where they learned this skill." (EUobserver.com)

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