SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 21 (UPI) -- Osama bin Laden's terrorist network had acquired biological warfare agents and had drawn up a list of targets in the United States and Israel well before the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, a newspaper reported Sunday.
The San Francisco Chronicle said that testimony given during a terrorism trial two years ago in Egypt was rich with details about bin Laden's alleged efforts to acquire various germs as well as weapons-grade nuclear materials.
Among the biological agents purchased by bin Laden's top aide, Egyptian Islamic Jihad leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, were anthrax and the deadly Ebola virus, the Chronicle said.
An Egyptian journalist told the newspaper that he had interviewed a high-ranking member of Islamic Jihad, who was among 107 defendants in a 1999 Egyptian terrorism trial. The journalist, Mohammed Salah of the newspaper al-Hayat, said that the defendant, Ahmad Salamah Mabruk, told him the terrorists were actively seeking bioterrorism weapons.
"He said to me that al-Zawahiri and bin Laden (had purchased) the weapons from countries in Eastern Europe," Salah told the Chronicle. "This was a big scoop, in my opinion, but the Americans didn't read this article," Salah said. "They come now to try to understand what happened (in court) two years ago."
Salah said Mabruk revealed that bin Laden and al-Zawahiri had compiled a list of 100 targets worldwide that were linked to the United States or Israel.
There was little information about the prospective targets, but Egyptian authorities presented evidence that the terrorist network actively sought out viruses and bacteria from Eastern Europe that caused Ebola, botulism, anthrax and salmonella.
Similar reports of bin Laden's interest in chemical and biological materials surfaced during other terrorist trials, including the New York trial in which convicted Algerian terrorist Ahmed Ressam testified that experiments using poisonous cyanide gas pumped into an office building ventilation system took place at training camps run by bin Laden in Afghanistan.