Enhancing regional anti-bioterrorism efforts focus of New Zealand INTERPOL training session

23 February 2010

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Law Enforcement, customs and public health officials from Asia and the South Pacific have attended an INTERPOL “Train-the-Trainer” session for the prevention of bioterrorism. The aim of the course was to enhance the capacity of regional INTERPOL member countries to prevent and prepare for bioterrorist attacks.

With 38 participants from 16 countries (American Samoa, Bhutan, Cambodia, Fiji, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Laos, Maldives, Macao, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, and Timor Leste), the end of the five-day (February 15-19) bioterrorism prevention course saw the expert trainees return to their respective countries to spread awareness about countering the bioterrorist threat, identify strategies and resource gaps, forge sub-regional communications and co-operation and recommend law-reform measures to fill in statutory gaps.

Describing the threat of bioterrorism as “real”, John Abbot, Chairman of the INTERPOL Bioterrorism Steering Group Committee, said that preparation and planning against the threat of bioterrorism were key to preventing it. He said that knowing what to do if it happens, or is suspected or threatened, was an essential part of every country’s counter-terrorism strategy.

“Terrorist groups have talked of developing the capability of using biological weapons. There is evidence of terrorist groups and individuals experimenting and using bio-weapons, and the increasing development of the bio-sciences is providing a range of potential opportunities for such people or groups.”

“This is what the INTERPOL prevention of bioterrorism programme is about. Supporting and assisting countries to be better prepared to prevent bioterrorism. To help them understand the issues better; to assist in developing their national plans, to train all staff and to exercise all the agencies and government departments that will be involved. And to understand what assistance can be expected internationally,” Mr Abbot said.

Sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the course was led by trainers from INTERPOL, the World Health Organisation, the Australian Federal Police, the United States Sandia Laboratories, the New South Wales Police in Australia, the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States, the UK Metropolitan Police and the United States Centre for Disease Control. It also included nine observers from different agencies of New Zealand responsible for the preparation and response to bioterrorist attacks.