Q: On the 20-year anniversary of the Sarin attack on the Tokyo Subway could ISIS do similar in New York or London?
Exactly 20 years ago today the Aum Shinrikyo religious sect in Japan released just under one litre (around a pint) of the deadly Nerve Agent Sarin on the Tokyo subway. It killed 12 and injured over 1,000 and created over 5,000 ‘worried-well’ who completely jammed the Tokyo hospital network. If the desire was to create terror and a lasting impact this event achieved more than most other terror events in the last 25 years. The last two weeks in Syria and Iraq have seen the most concentrated and deadly use of chemical weapons since the Iran/Iraq war and Saddam Hussein’s era of ‘gassing the Kurds’ in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. There have been hundreds of chlorine IEDs planted by ISIS in the defense of Tikrit and a major vehicle-born chlorine explosive device detonated north of Mosul against the Peshmerga, and in Syria, chlorine barrel bombs have killed 6 and injured over 70.
It is very evident that ISIS are putting much time and effort into training its jihadis in the use of chlorine as a terror weapon and in particular in IEDs. Virtually every foreign jihadi who returns to the US or UK will have been exposed to training of this sort and will have a reasonable idea on how to use chlorine and other toxic chemicals as a terror weapon. In the UK at least, up to 90 tonnes of chlorine can be purchased without any licences required. The method of delivery of chlorine at the 2nd Battle of Ypres in April 1915, 100 years ago would be effective on the subway today; that is, take the top off a chlorine canister and let is ‘vapourize’ aka ‘weaponize. So, yes, ISIS could replicate the Tokyo gas attacks in the UK and US relatively easily…..however…..Chlorine is not very toxic and the green and yellow clouds are easy to see and avoid, and it is very non-persistent only lasting for a few minutes. My working with UK charity www.SyriaRelief.org has focused in Syria on giving civilians the basic know-how to avoid chlorine; avoid the yellow and green cloud, run away and get to high ground, and in extremis, do as they did in WWI, urinate into a cloth and breath through it….your urea very effectively traps the chlorine. Undoubtedly, and hopefully the CIA, FBI, MI 5 & 6 etc. will be taking a very close look at returning Jihadis and in particular anybody buying toxic chemicals.
Conclusion: Yes, ISIS could replicate the Tokyo gas attacks, but if ‘forewarned and forearmed’ the effect should be minimal.