They call her Dr Germ the most dangerous woman terrorist alive today. Only Saddam Hussein and Osama bin-Laden rival her for crimes against humanity.
Britain's MI5 believe she prepared the deadly ricin threat that has terrified that country along with the possibility of equally lethal poisons waiting to be released.
Iraqi-born, Dr Rihad Taha spent over five years at one of Britain's top universities researching plant poisons. She had access to work done at Porton Down. She returned home to become head of Saddam's biological warfare programme.
Last week, it emerged from intelligence sources in Washington and London that Dr Germ was instrumental in sending the two barrels of chemicals found in the possession of members of the bin-Laden group arrested in raids in the Barcelona area.
The barrels were intended to be used as weapons to attack American and British war ships sailing through the Straits of Gibraltar on their way to the Gulf.
MI6 sources in London had joined forces with CIA agents to track the two barrels into Spain. They had worked closely with Spanish intelligence and police officers.
The discovery of the two barrels is regarded as a significant development in establishing links between Iraq and al-Quaeda links vehemently denied by Saddam Hussein.
"But we are focussing on the belief that Iraq had secretly sent other quantities of chemicals into Spain", confirmed a senior intelligence source in Washington.
Those chemicals are believed to be part of the 3.9 tons of VX gas that Dr Germ told UN inspectors in 1991 had been destroyed "while I watched it happen".
But at the UN last Monday, Hans Blix told the Security Council that there were substantial quantities of chemicals not accounted for in Iraq.
And William Tierney, a senior UN weapons inspector who is now an adviser on the current status of Iraq's arsenal of biological weapons said: "The missing VX nerve agent is only one aspect of what is happening in Iraq."
There is no doubt that Dr Taha has targeted Spain as a launch pad. This is because there is easy access to the Straits from both North Africa and the mainland, he told me.
Evidence to support this has been found in raids by MI5 in London and Manchester earlier this month. Intercepted telephone calls, from an al-Quaeda apartment in the north London suburb of Wood Green, established the six men arrested later at the safe house were in contact with Algerian associates in Barcelona. Two of the calls were traced to numbers in Cairo which are known to have been used in the past by Dr Taha.
Intelligence sources in Washington who have also spoken to Newsweek told me that the terrorists arrested in the Barcelona area had planned to shift the two discovered barrels of chemicals to Cadiz. There, the sources told me, the plan was for an al-Quaeda suicide bomber to have rented a fishing boat to take the chemicals out into the Straits and release their lethal contents.
A security service source in London said that there was "credible evidence" that the attack was planned to coincide with President Bush's State of the Union address when he formally prepared America to go to war.
MI5 now believe Dr Germ left behind with sleeper terrorist agents in Britain, the blueprint for a germ factory based on all she studied at the University of East Anglia.
"There is credible evidence the sleepers passed on the plans to even more dangerous fanatics who have entered Britain under the guise of asylum seekers. Some of them may be scientists briefed by Taha before coming here," said an intelligence source.
Britain's Labour MP Andrew MacKinley expressed the concern of many UK politicians last week when he said "there are many hundreds of foreign scientists in this country and we don't have the foggiest idea what they are doing here".
In the desperate search to discover the germ factory before it spreads its deadly poisons, raids were carried out in Bournemouth and Manchester. The factory is believed to be hidden in one of the safe houses bin Laden is now feared to have established in Britain. Traces of ricin were found the previous week in a London flat.
As the unprecedented hunt continues to discover the lethal factory, the story of Dr Germ shows how far she has extended her network with Spain as a key element. In the years since she has worked once more building up Iraq's biological warfare programme, she has made regular trips to Algeria, Morocco where last year al-Quaeda terrorists were found and to Egypt.
Intelligence sources have also discovered she was in Prague around the time that the final plans were being made for the attacks of September 11. It has raised the possibility, said a CIA source, that the original intention had been to use biological agents during the attack.
"She may have hoped that at the moment of impact, the germs could have been released over New York. But if that was the case, it would never have worked", he added. "For that we can be grateful".
Barely five feet tall with a pinched face and skinny figure, she is the eldest daughter of one of the ruling families in Iraq. Today, she lives in a mansion close to one of Saddam's palaces in Baghdad. She is married to Amer Rashid, Iraq's oil minister himself an Oxford graduate. An MI5 report reveals that while she was pregnant with her first child she spent the months studying means of how to infect Western babies with lethal doses of diarrhoea.
Mossad's dossier on Dr Germ details her terminal experiments on Saddam's prisoners with anthrax, botulism and ricin. Last week, Mossad sources confirmed they hold hard evidence of how Dr Germ "personally supervised" anthrax tests on human guinea pigs at Salman Park, a military complex 50 miles south of Baghdad. The complex is now on the "urgent" list to be visited again by UN weapons inspectors. The Mossad report describes how Dr Germ watched from behind a glass screen as Saddam's prisoners were strapped to beds.
"They were sprayed with anthrax from a ceiling mounted 'gun' and their agonising deaths exactly timed by Dr Taha and her scientist's", states the report. The experiments are the by-product of her studies in Britain. She came in 1979, arriving on a First Class ticket with Iraqi Airlines from Baghdad. In her suitcases were Armani suits and designer jeans from Paris. Taha took a taxi to the campus in Norwich. No one thought this remarkable. Foreign students were free-spenders. Dr Germ had enrolled to study crop diseases. She was 23 years-old, a mousey-haired girl with an unattractive habit of chewing flower stalks. It had already turned her teeth yellow.
No one suspected she was a fanatical member of Saddam's ruling Ba'ath Party.
No one noticed at the time her sudden weekend visits to London to meet her Iraqi intelligence controller.
At that time Saddam was anything but a threat to Britain. It was the activities of the Ayatollah of Tehran which worried the intelligence services. Taha would sit long into the night in her bedsit in Norwich's Earlhan Road. Fellow students were impressed by her dedication even if they found her arrogance off-putting. And they were sympathetic when her end-of-term exam results were disappointing.
No one suspected that flunking was a deliberate ploy to ensure she would stay on at the university to continue her degree course.
Away from the classroom, her studies were of a very different kind. Her course enabled her to access restricted papers, some from Porton Down Britain's secret biological-chemical warfare research establishment. These showed her how to distribute anthrax, botulism, bubonic plague and other toxins in the biology of doom arsenal.
She learned how deadly germs could be sprayed in shopping centres and bomblets spewing anthrax spores over a sports arena. She discovered that little more than the equipment used in a Sixth Form science lab is sufficient to produce a bio weapon.
Towards the end of her stay in Britain, MI5 now know Dr Germ the nickname was coined for her by the former UN weapons inspector Rolf Ekeus began to visit Islamic groups in London and the north of England.
When Taha returned to Iraq in 1984, with a degree in microbiology, she had established contacts she would carefully nurture. She quickly came to the attention of General Amer Saadi a graduate from Oxford with a master's degree in chemistry. He was in overall charge of Saddam's secret biological research programme.
Taha joined the small team of British trained Iraqi graduates who spearheaded the programme. They set up their laboratories in the al-Hazan Ibn al Hathem Institute outside Baghdad. After the Gulf War, Dr Germ made "a full and final complete declaration" that all the pathogens at the labs had been incinerated.
Lying, it has turned out, was second nature to her.
Last week, a tantalizing glimpse of her personal behaviour came from Rolf Ekeus. "She became well known to us for her histrionic performances when questioned. Though normally mild-mannered, she would suddenly explode into a rage or burst into tears. She would shout and throw chairs, or storm out of the room when we questioned her", said Ekeus.
Later some of her contacts in Britain were invited by her to visit Baghdad. By then she had abandoned her smart clothes for the battle fatigues Saddam favours. Her hair had been hennaed the colour of the Euphrates which flows past her home.
She has been publicly honoured by Saddam and made head of her work in biological warfare. In the years of slavishly trying to find new means to kill innocent millions, Taha has developed a terrifying temper once threatening to lock a subordinate in a test box and release germs into it.
Intelligence sources now believe that in the aftermath of the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, Dr Germ travelling on a Pakistan passport made visits to France. It is there that she reportedly visited asylum seekers waiting on the French coast to smuggle themselves into Britain. It has now emerged that some of those were Algerians with links to al-Quaeda in Spain.
"Spain is now thought to be a logistical centre and its main financial conduit into Europe", said an MI5 source. Certainly there is the evidence that Spain has detained 35 Islamic terrorists since September 11. More intriguing is that Mossad have established that Dr Germ has a long-standing friendship with Mohammed Bensakhria, a close associate of Osama bin-Laden. He was arrested in south-eastern Spain in 2001 and extradited to Germany. Another friend of Dr Germ has been identified as Abu Qatada who has been described by Spain's foremost investigative judge as "bin-Laden's European ambassador".
It is these links that have now focussed intense scrutiny on Dr Germ and what she may do next.
Today, a scrawny 46 year-old, she has earned not only an odious nickname "Dr Germ" but an honour she will not like. Pentagon analyst Brian Anderson says that in the list of targets for the coming war with Iraq, "there is only one name ahead of Taha's Saddam Hussein".
If captured, Dr Germ will face a war crime trial. But the likelihood is that she will commit suicide with one of her own germs.
In MI5's dossier, she takes up more space than either of Saddam's two sons. Meantime, foreign scientists from countries known to support terrorism continue to have ready access to Britain's leading laboratories and university campuses. MI5 do not discount that some of those students are here to exploit the legacy of Dr Germ and launch a terrifying biological war on this country.
Gordon Thomas is the author of "MOSSAD La Historia Secreta" and "SEMILLAS DE ODIO La Connexion China Con El Terrorismo Internacional" (Ediciones-B).