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25 March 2016

INTERPOL holds bioterrorism workshop

LYON, France – Enhancing the capacity of authorities in Iraq to better prevent, detect and respond to biological threats was the focus of an INTERPOL workshop in Lyon.

The workshop included representatives from the Iraqi National Monitoring Authority (INMA), Ministry of Defense, specialized CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives) teams, as well as science and technology and the health and agriculture sectors.

Funded by Global Affairs Canada,  the four-day event (22  – 25 March) saw INTERPOL’s BioTerrorism Prevention Unit train the newly established CBRNE teams within INMA on risk assessment and approach, biosecurity measures, and, through the provision of biological detection equipment, the ability to screen for select biological weapons and materials in the field.

Sirine Hijal, First Secretary, Political affairs, at Canada’s Embassy in France, said: “Biological agents pose a unique risk to global security, given their naturally-occurring and self-replicating character. Because disease does not respect international boundaries, the effects of a bioterror attack in one location can very quickly spread elsewhere.”

“I am confident this workshop will deepen our levels of awareness – not just on the dangers posed by the possible use of a bioterror weapon in Iraq, but also raise awareness on the absolute necessity of experts working together and reaching out to different agencies and stakeholders to respond in a rapid and integrated manner. This will help strengthen our collective capacity to prepare and respond to terrorist activities across shared borders and in the broader international context,” Ms Hijal added.

The objectives of the workshop included:

  • Increasing awareness of current terrorist threats and capabilities
  • Building knowledge on biosecurity and role of law enforcement
  • Discussing critical effects of regional and global instability, including community unrest
  • Conducting training and biological detection equipment presumptive analysis on site
  • Increasing communication between organizations responsible for coordinating biological incident investigations
  • Enhancing coordination and cooperation on issues relating to information sharing, threat/risk assessment, law enforcement operations and interagency collaboration.

Rebecca Hoile, Coordinator for INTERPOL’s BioTerrorism Prevention Unit, said: “Biological pathogens and the deliberate spread of disease is a global issue that can be minimized and even prevented if detected early. The workshop’s intensive training will have equipped the Iraqi CBRNE team with skills to detect and respond to biological threats.”

The workshop included lectures, group activities, an exercise tied a biological clandestine laboratory, as well as the provision of biological detection equipment and training for its use as a preliminary detection tool.