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April 29, 2003

Anthrax heading our way?

I would have thought this story would be big news, but as of a few minutes ago, at least, none of the major news services seem to be picking up on it.   (Note to Al Queda: you've got to train your mules not to sample the product.)

Egyptian Sailor Dies; Officials Suspect Anthrax

Knight Ridder News Service

WASHINGTON -- U.S. law enforcement officials are monitoring the death in Brazil of an Egyptian seaman bound for Canada who might have been transporting anthrax.
A Brazilian government medical investigator whose office performed the tests said that he and federal police suspect that anthrax might have killed Soliman Ibrahim.
Ibrahim had just reached his ship, a bauxite carrier, on April 11 in the Amazon River port of Porto Trombetas, Brazil, when he told shipmates he felt sick. He had been asked to deliver a suitcase to someone in Canada, Ibrahim told them, and had opened the suitcase out of curiosity.
Ibrahim died that night, vomiting blood.
Authorities are awaiting the results of blood tests to determine what killed him.
Brazilian officials are operating on a theory that a terrorist plot might have been foiled but are revealing few details.
Ibrahim's ship and crew of 30 were in quarantine on Monday six miles offshore of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
A team of Canadian health officials boarded the ship Saturday and conducted tests. Results are expected by Thursday, said Health Canada spokeswoman Tracey Taweel. The crew members are all in excellent health, she said. The ship was bound for Port Alfred, Quebec.
Interpol alerted Canadian authorities late last week that the ship was headed their way.
A rash of anthrax mailings broke out in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in Washington and New York and killed five people. No one has been arrested, and the source of the anthrax has yet to be identified.
An aide to Brazilian Justice Minister Marcio Thomaz Bastos said Monday that there is a "strong suspicion" that the dead Egyptian might have been transporting anthrax. Authorities did not say whether he might have been carrying liquid anthrax or the more deadly powdered form used in the 2001 attacks.
Luiz Malcher, director general of the Renato Chavez Forensic Sciences Center in Belem in northern Brazil, said that a necropsy found bacteria destroyed Ibrahim's organs.
"The bacteria colonies were similar to anthrax," he said. "If it isn't anthrax, it is an extremely virulent bacteria."
"He had a very quick death because of the infection," Malcher said. "What we are lacking confirmation of is the bacteria."
Ibrahim's suspicious luggage and his body were wrapped in a plastic seal to prevent leakage of the bacteria.
Wesley Carrington, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia, Brazil's capital, said: "The Brazilians are handling the matter here and the Canadians on the other end. We have full confidence in their abilities."

April 29, 2003 at 12:01 PM | Permalink

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