Bio Weapons Accident Caused
Two Major Epidemics In China
NEW YORK (Agence France Presse) - A serious accident at one of China's secret plants for developing biological weapons caused two major epidemics, the New York Times reported Monday, citing a book by a Soviet defector.
Kanatjan Alibekov, the most senior defector from the Soviet germ-warfare program also claims in his book that Soviet researchers tried to turn HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, into a weapon, the Times said.
In "Biohazard," Alibekov says that even as the last Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, pursued peace openings with the West, he ordered a vast expansion of the deadly effort to turn germs and viruses into weapons of mass destruction.
The defector, now known as Ken Alibek, says in the book that as deputy director of a top branch of the Soviet program, he knew of the disaster in China because he saw secret Soviet intelligence reports twice a month.
Spy satellites peering down at China found what seemed to be a large biological weapons laboratory and plant near a remote site for testing nuclear warheads, he wrote.
Intelligence agents then found evidence that two epidemics of hemorrhagic fever swept the region in the late 1980s.
The area had never previously known such diseases, which cause profuse bleeding and death, Alibekov wrote.
"Our analysts," Alibek said, "concluded that they were caused by an accident in a lab where Chinese scientists were weaponizing viral diseases."
Viral scourges that cause intense bleeding include Marburg fever and the dreaded Ebola virus. Both are endemic to Africa.
China has signed a 1972 treaty banning biological weapons, but U.S. intelligence agencies have long suspected that China harbors a biological-weapons program, the Times said.
"Biohazard" is scheduled to be published by Random House this week.