Portal:Oregon/Selected article/34

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Wasco County Courthouse

The 1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attack refers to the salmonella food poisoning of over seven hundred and fifty individuals in Oregon, USA through the contamination of salad bars at ten local restaurants. Followers of Osho, then known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, hoped to incapacitate the voting population of the town so that their own candidates would win county elections. The attack is one of only two confirmed terrorist uses of biological weapons to harm humans. Having previously gained political control of Antelope, Oregon, Osho followers based in nearby Rajneeshpuram sought election to two of the three seats on the Wasco County Court which were up for election in November 1984. After other tactics to gain political control failed, Rajneeshpuram officials decided to incapacitate voters in The Dalles, the most populated city in the county. The biological agent used was Salmonella enterica Typhimurium, which was first delivered through glasses of water to two county commissioners, and then delivered on a larger scale at salad bars and in salad dressing. A total of 751 people were sickened with salmonellosis, and 45 were hospitalized, but no fatalities. An initial investigation by the Oregon Public Health Division and the Centers for Disease Control did not rule out deliberate contamination, the source of the biological agent was only discovered one year later. At a press conference in 1985, Osho accused several of his followers of involvement in this and other crimes, including an aborted plan to assassinate a United States attorney. The Oregon Attorney General set up an inter agency task force between the Oregon State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and executed search warrants in Rajneeshpuram. A contaminant matching the bacteria that sickened the town residents was found in a Rajneeshpuram medical laboratory. Two leading Rajneeshpuram officials served twenty-nine months in a minimum-security federal prison.