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UN Says Terrorist Groups Exploiting COVID-19 Pandemic With Extortion, Bio-warfare

The UN said in a report that criminals and violent extremists have been “taking advantage” of COVID-19 pandemic to build their own support networks.

UN

The United Nations (UN) said in a report that criminals and violent extremists have been “taking advantage” of COVID-19 pandemic to build their own support networks, undermining trust on the governments and even ‘weaponizing’ the novel coronavirus. In a report published on November 18, the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) has noted that several sections of the society are exploiting the global health crisis to “expand their activities” and derail the efficacy made by authorities in dealing the pandemic and instilling bio-warfare. It also said that some extremist groups have misused social media platforms to use the biological weapon. 

“Terrorist, violent extremist and organized criminal groups are trying to take advantage of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to expand their activities and jeopardize the efficacy and credibility of response measures by governments”, UNICRI Director Antonia Marie De Meo wrote in the introduction to the report, entitled “Stop the virus of disinformation”.

“It is also alarming that some terrorist and violent extremist groups have attempted to misuse social media to incite potential terrorists to intentionally spread COVID-19 and to use it as an improvised form of a biological weapon”, De Meo wrote.

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Social media to ‘inspire terrorism’

In the same report, the UNICRI said that social media could be used as a medium to “inspire terrorism” by motivating ‘self-radicalised’ extremists to launch attacks and cause unrest in the society. The report said that there are several cases in the right-wing extremist groups that asked its followers to spread the SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19 by coughing on the local minority groups. Meanwhile, other groups motivated to spread the novel coronavirus among nations with high populations. 

“There are cases in which right-wing extremist groups… explicitly asked their followers to spread the virus by coughing on their local minority or by attending to specific places where religious or racial minorities gather. Other groups…advocate to spread the coronavirus disease in countries with large populations or high levels of pollution”, the report said.

To support the claim of ‘inspired terrorism’, the report also cited the case of Timothy Wilson, who orchestrated a plan to detonate a bomb in a hospital with COVID-19 patients in Kansas City. But he died during a firefight with the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation in March. It was also found that Wilson was active in more than one neo-Nazi channels on social media platform Telegram. 

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