Wednesday, November 14, 2001

FBI agents armed with search warrants raided two houses in a southwestern suburb of Philadelphia yesterday, backed by members of a hazardous-materials squad wearing full protective gear.
Located less than two blocks apart in Chester, Pa., some 15 miles southwest of Philadelphia, the houses are owned by Dr. Irshad Shaikh, a Pakistani physician and specialist in epidemic diseases who is Chester’s city health commissioner, and by Asif Kazi, the Chester city accountant, who also is a Pakistani native.
It was the first known raid of private residences in the FBI’s ongoing investigation into an anthrax attack on America that has killed four persons.
FBI spokeswoman Linda Vizi confirmed yesterday that search warrants had been signed and served, although she said they were based on an FBI affidavit that a federal court had sealed. She said she could not comment on what information, if any, FBI agents might have been seeking at the two houses.
“Two search warrants have been issued and two places have been searched,” she told The Washington Times. “An affidavit in the matter has been sealed. No one has been detained and no one has been arrested.
“This is a young investigation, a new investigation,” she said. “We do not know where it might take us.”
Officials at FBI headquarters in Washington confirmed that the warrants had been served, but also declined comment. More than two dozen FBI agents were involved in the raids, supported by a hazardous-materials team.
Chester Mayor Dominic F. Pileggi said FBI agents and hazardous-materials specialists clad in protective suits and gas masks spent “several hours” at the two houses, but “wrapped things up” during the afternoon.
He said the agents had search warrants and were working from a sealed FBI affidavit and that the FBI did not advise Chester city officials and police authorities on what investigators were looking for or had found.
“We were assured that there was no danger to the public health and that residents of the city are safe, but I have no information on what they were doing or why,” Mr. Pileggi said.
Miss Vizi also declined to say whether agents were looking for traces of anthrax or other biological materials at the two houses, and she refused to offer any explanation on the presence of the fully protected hazardous-materials specialists, who set up a secure decontamination tent and trailer alongside one of the houses.
Investigators moved several green plastic trash bags to vans and other vehicles from the two houses, one located in the 2300 block of Edgmont Avenue and the other in the 100 block of Crozer Circle.
Jodi Masusock, who works at a dentist’s office down the street from the house on Edgmont Avenue, said FBI agents blocked off the street during the raid.
“But I didn’t hear or see anything until it was over,” she said. “The house that was raided is hard to see because there are a lot of bushes.”
Agents also removed a computer from Dr. Shaikh’s Chester city office.
City records show the Edgmont Avenue home is owned by Dr. Shaikh, while the house on Crozer Circle is owned by Mr. Kazi.
Dr. Shaikh did not return calls left at his office for comment, although he told the Associated Press in Philadelphia that he had “fully cooperated” in the search. He said agents questioned him but declined to say what they asked.
Mr. Kazi and Masood Shaikh, Dr. Shaikh’s brother who lived in the Edgmont Avenue house, were unavailable for comment. All three were questioned by the FBI. It was not clear yesterday whether Dr. Shaikh also lived in the Edgmont Avenue house.
The two houses are located about 50 miles from where anthrax-laced letters are believed to have been mailed from a post office in Hamilton Township, N.J. Those letters eventually went through a postal facility in Trenton, N.J., and then to NBC News in New York and the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, at the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington.
Two postal workers who were believed to have handled the Daschle letter later died from inhalation anthrax. Two other persons died from inhalation anthrax in New York and Florida, although the source of those infections had not been determined.
Mr. Pileggi said Dr. Shaikh had served as the city’s health commissioner since 1994 and described him as “well respected.” He added that Dr. Shaikh had done “a fine job” for the city and doubted he would be involved in anything nefarious.
“I would be extremely surprised if Dr. Shaikh has any connection to anything the FBI might be investigating,” the mayor said.
Records showed Dr. Shaikh completed his medical degree in community medicine in Pakistan and was considered an expert in epidemiology and international health. He received a master’s degree in public health and a doctorate at Johns Hopkins University, where he held a faculty appointment.

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide