(SNews) – The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised the alarm over a “high risk of biological hazard” after a group of militants seized control of a U.S.-funded biolab containing “extremely dangerous” viruses.
One of two warring factions in Sudan has taken control of a laboratory where scientists have been experimenting with deadly pathogens.
The lab, Sudan’s National Public Health Laboratory, is reportedly linked to Dr. Anthony Fauci and the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), among other federal agencies.
The lab’s technicians were unable to secure the infectious materials after fighting broke out in the African country.
The WHO’s representative in Sudan, Dr. Nima Saeed Abid, told journalists that the lab is now under the control of dangerous militants, AFP reported.
Violent clashes between Sudanese forces and a military junta broke out on April 15.
According to WHO figures, the fighting has led to at least 427 deaths and 3,700 injuries.
A 72-hour ceasefire is currently in place, with thousands attempting to flee the country and several nations making efforts to evacuate their citizens.
The WHO said that there have been 14 attacks on healthcare facilities during the fighting, with 20 hospitals closed due to a lack of resources, Newsweek reported.
Abid told reporters in Geneva Tuesday that technicians were unable to access the biolab in Khartoum and properly secure the pathogens, reported Reuters.
The lab is reportedly located near the center of the city, close to Khartoum’s primary airport.
Among the various hazardous materials stored on-site are the pathogens that cause measles, polio, and cholera.
“This is the main concern: no accessibility to the lab technicians to go to the lab and safely contain the biological material and substances available,” said Abid.
The armed militants reportedly removed all staff from the lab, including scientists and technicians, creating a “high risk of biological hazard.”
The WHO said that Sudanese fighters “kicked out all the technicians from the lab … which is completely under the control of one of the fighting parties as a military base.”
The militants have created an “extremely, extremely dangerous” situation, according to Abid.
Politico indicated that the lab takeover took place one day before the 72-hour ceasefire between the army and the RSF, announced by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, went into effect.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan indicated in a Monday White House press briefing that the U.S. was “actively facilitating the departure of American citizens who want to leave Sudan” and had “deployed U.S. intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to support land evacuation routes, which Americans are using.”
The seizure of the lab is raising further concerns about the U.S. government’s funding of foreign biolabs.
Sudan’s National Public Health Laboratory received financial and personnel support from U.S. government bodies including the Department of Defense, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Anthony Fauci’s National Institutes of Health agency, Natalie Winters at The War Room reported
According to Abid, the situation is “extremely dangerous” because scientists have been experimenting with deadly pathogens in the lab.
“We have polio isolates in the lab, we have measles isolates in the lab, we have cholera isolates in the lab,” Abid warned.
U.S. federal funding has directly supported research conducted by researchers from the high-risk laboratory into cholera.
“There is a huge biological risk associated with the occupation of the central public health lab in Khartoum by one of the fighting parties,” he added.
The lab, which is based in the country’s capital Khartoum, is a recipient of support from a variety of U.S. government agencies including the Department of Defense (DOD), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
During Dr. Fauci’s tenure as an NIH agency leader, he also allocated funds to support research involving scientists from the controversial laboratory.
Although it is presently unclear whether either force will reign victorious over the country of 46 million souls, whoever comes out on top may have to contend with homegrown biological warfare.