Sun Claims Cyanide Cream Olympic Terror Threat

From the Sun:

AL-QAEDA fanatics are plotting a deadly cyanide poison attack on the London Olympics, a Sun investigation has found.

The chilling online plot was uncovered as two convicted al-Qaeda terrorists were released early from jail and put back on the streets ahead of the Olympics.

…An extremist who called himself Abu Hija Ansari said the poison should be mixed with a handcream that would enable it to be absorbed through the skin.

…Our investigator used a false identity to access the website which has 17,000 members worldwide and known links to six al—Qaeda terrorists.

He said: “There is a contingent using this site who want to strike at the Games. The explicit nature of what is being said would indicate more than just sabre-rattling but a wish to do real harm to the event and the people at it.”

Those of us who can think back three years will recall the last time that the Sun uncovered a supposed terror plot by having an investigator poke around web forums – alas, it turned out that things were not what they seemed.

Of course, that in doesn’t mean that the new story should be dismissed – we all know that there are dangerous fanatics out there, and the Olympics is an obvious target. “Abu Hija Ansari” may just be a sanguinary fantasist sounding off, but he needs to identified and properly assessed as a matter of urgency.

However, the Sun leaves things hanging in a way that is not helpful: although there is a blurry screen-capture, the website is not named, and the quotes have all been translated from Arabic. We are completely dependent on one anonymous source, and given the Sun‘s history that is troubling. Who are the “six al-Qaeda terrorists”, and what is the nature of their “known links” to the unnamed site? Where has the “70,000 members” figure come from? Given the way the story stokes public alarm, we ought to be given as much information as possible.

Meanwhile, The Blaze has managed to botch the story, conflating the report about the postings with background details about how MI5 plans to monitor the Olympics: we thus get the headline “MI5 Foils ‘Cyanide Hand Cream’ Attack Ahead of Olympic Games“.

This is not the first time that a cyanide cream has been linked to al-Qaeda; in August 2002, William Safire discussed a “terrorist mission to set up facilities to weaponize poisons” in the mountains of Kurdistan. Safire claimed that terrorists had produced

a form of cyanide cream that kills on contact. A shipment of this rudimentary panic-spreader, produced by what interrogators say is a Qaeda-Saddam joint venture, was recently intercepted in Turkey on its way to terror cells in the West.

Following the invasion of Iraq, the Los Angeles Times reported that

A Special Forces major investigating [the terrorist group] Ansar [al-Islam] said chemicals found at Sargat are being analyzed by U.S. intelligence… The group, according to Kurdish officials, had been experimenting on animals with a cyanide-laced cream. Several jars of peach body lotion lay at the site beside chemicals and a few empty wooden birdcages.