Chechen Jihadist’s Critical Analysis of a Ricin Poison Instructional Video


Shai Arbel, CEO of Terrogence Global, provides a valuable update on CBRN terrorism with the aim of raising awareness and helping first responders and law enforcement authorities to dismantle these terrorist networks.

Recently, the Chechen jihadist Lamanho Telegram channel started a discussion related to the production and use of ricin, based on a known (old) video by Kurt Saxon. The Lamanho author provides his analysis, highlighting the pros and cons of the recipe, and makes corrections to it. While this is not the first time the use of ricin as an assassination TTP has been discussed in jihadi groups, the Lamanho thread presents a new opinion on the topic.

Lamanho’s Critical Analysis

The Lamanho ricin-related discussion is based on an old video by Kurt Saxon, an American writer, radio host, survivalist, and the author of “The Poor Man’s James Bond,” a series of books on improvised weapons and munitions. According to the video, the ricin recipe is taken from Vol. 3, page 26. The third volume was written in 1984, so the video was probably filmed in the late 1980s. In the video, Saxon shows the extraction of ricin in two ways: using saline solution and using acetone.  The video is accompanied by Russian subtitles, added by Lamanho. 

Screenshots from video filmed by Kurt Saxon, with Russian subtitles added by Lamanho

Using the Saxon video as a basis, the Lamanho author presents his own analysis of the pros and cons of the instructions. The Lamanho author then summarizes, in a step-by-step manner, the instructions provided in the video, highlighting the most important details. He also converts ounces to grams and milliliters, adapting it for Russian-speaking audiences. 

The extraction method involving the use of saline solution is recommended by Lamanho as the preferred method as all the components used in this method are inexpensive and easy to obtain.

Regarding the second method, using acetone, the Lamanho author provides a detailed explanation of why the method is less effective, and then explains how it should be performed in his estimation.

After that, the Lamanho author provides instructions which, in his estimation, work better when using acetone.

At the end of discussion, the Lamanho author added some theoretical materials, stating it was necessary to go over the basic theory before making the poison yourself. The materials include several pages scanned from a book by a Russian microbiologist – an author of books and articles on the history of plagues, epidemics, and other especially dangerous infections, in addition to the history of the development and use of chemical and biological weapons.

On the left: Castor bean oil press, shown in the video by Kurt Saxon. The screenshot is taken from Saxon’s book, where it appeared in better quality than the one shown in the video.

The Lamanho author also posted “The Preparation of Toxic Ricin” (1952) by Harry L. Craig, in English. Comment: “Patent for the preparation of ricin. Especially for those who want to obtain pure ricin. Let me remind you that [Georgi] Markov was killed with just 0.5 mg of ricin administered parenterally. 1 gram is 1000 mg.” 

Ricin and its History in the Jihadi World

Ricin is a carbohydrate-binding protein and a highly potent toxin produced in the seeds of the castor oil plant, Ricinus communis. As a poison, ricin can be utilized in either powder or liquid form and has been used in assassinations and small contamination attempted attacks; it has been used in both criminal and terror applications for over 50 years. Perhaps the most well-known use of ricin was the 1978 assassination of Bulgarian dissident writer Georgi Markov, who died several days after a Bulgarian secret police agent injected a ricin-filled pellet into Markov’s leg using an umbrella as he stood at a London bus stop. This case was also mentioned in the Lamanho discussion. Ricin does not penetrate the skin, so the usual method of poisoning is by injection into the bloodstream, while inhalation is more lethal.

Ricin has been discussed by jihadi groups in different arenas over the years. 

Instructions for constructing an improvised dispersal device using a ricin-filled plastic water bottle with an improvised detonator, Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center manual, October 2015

On October 21, 2015, the Gaza-based Salafi-jihadi Ibn Taymiyyah Information Center (ITMC) published a seven-page manual on its Twitter account suggesting different ways to perpetrate lone wolf attacks. Of note was the manual’s step-by-step description of ricin extraction, and instructions on three possible delivery methods: 

– An improvised dispersal device, that is to say, an improvised detonator inside a plastic water bottle as a means to disperse the poison through the air. The explosion of the detonator would consume some of the poisonous material, but disperse the remainder over a limited distance in the form of dust particles in a cloud.

– A fragmentation IED with ricin as a toxic additive.

– A knife coated with the poison, including suggestions to make grooves in the blade to help the poison to stick, and smearing the mixture inside the knife casing.

Ricin mixed with cream and then smeared on the blade of a knife, ITMC manual, October 2015

Prior to that, between September 2013 and January 2014, an Iranian blogger called radmasaf uploaded a number of posts on the subject of ricin poison. The post discussed its applications and delivery and dispersal methods, offering to produce an improvised dispersal mechanism for aerosolizing ricin in enclosed spaces.

Jihadists have published several manuals for producing ricin, including an illustrated Arabic manual based on the same videotaped preparation by Kurt Saxon; Abdel Azizi’s English-language “The Mujahideen’s Poisons Handbook; and the prominent jihadi IED-HME expert Abdullah Dhu al-Bajadin’s manual from the “Al-Qaeda Airlines” series.

In his explanation, Lamanho refers to a video by IslamDin – a jihadist website affiliated with the Caucasus Emirate, posted in 2014. In the 20-minute video, Abu Khuzayfa al-Khurasani explains what ricin is, and how it can be made and used in terror activities (added to toothpaste, hand cream, etc.) The Lamanho author states the method with acetone suggested in the video is incorrect, as is the second method described by Kurt Saxon. Text Box: Sketch of the improvised dispersal mechanism

Snapshot from the video posted by IslamDin, with Abu Khuzayfa al-Khurasani explaining the preparation of ricin, February 2014

With regard to the TTPs, the Lamanho author recommends adding ricin to food, or delivery by injection, but only with multiple dosages. At the same time, he states the dosage is difficult to determine, since the amount of ricin in castor beans is not the same after each extraction. In addition, the Lamanho author rejected all of the [aerosol] dispersal methods, calling them ineffective. 

Discussing the extraction methods – using saline solution and acetone – the channel’s author expressed his preference for the second method over the first, as it includes components that are easier to acquire and use. Of note, this is typical for all manuals and recommendations made by Lamanho, as the main goal of the channel is to provide advice regarding easy and readily accessible tactics/manuals that do not require any special preparation or knowledge, and inexpensive components. 

“A special feature of the Lamanho discussion is the author’s attempts to provide a comprehensive explanation, while concentrating on the disadvantages of the recipes, and making recommendations more suited to the realities of his audience’s lives”

Thus, a special feature of the Lamanho discussion is the author’s attempts to provide a comprehensive explanation, while concentrating on the disadvantages of the recipes, and making recommendations more suited to the realities of his audience’s lives, adding details and taking into consideration certain conditions and other specific details related to a potential reader.

As usual, the Lamanho author refers to some theoretical materials, outlining the importance of a theoretical basis in any learning process. Of note, the book the Lamanho author quoted from is not easily accessible. This, together with other typical features of his writing style, makes his work more professional and unique among Russian-speaking jihadi groups.

About the Author:

Mr. Shair Arbel is the Chief Executive Officer of Terrogence Global.Prior to establishing Terrogence Global, Mr. Arbel served as team leader in 8200 Intelligence unit in the IDF. Following his service, he joined the Israeli Security Agency (ISA), taking a position as a communications analyst. Mr. Arbel has been a part of the Terrogence team from the beginning in 2005. 

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