- The Washington Times - Monday, October 29, 2001

From Combined Dispatches

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz says the United States and Britain soon could be targets for large-scale chemical or biological attacks, the Sunday Telegraph reported in London yesterday.
Mr. Wolfowitz told the Telegraph he believes that al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden's terrorist network, will target civilians in the West the United States and Britain in particular hoping for tens of thousands of casualties.
The newspaper said the British government denies the United Kingdom is likely to be the next target, but a journalist reportedly told Mr. Wolfowitz: "It would be prudent to anticipate that these murderers will attack the U.K. as well, and more so because you are so closely identified with us."
The Telegraph said Mr. Wolfowitz suspects that Iraq could have been involved in recent anthrax attacks by mail in the United States that have killed three persons a Florida journalist and two Washington postal workers since the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes against the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon. At least 14 others have been infected by the disease. Some 10,000 U.S. postal workers are taking antibiotics as a precaution, and anthrax panics have been reported worldwide.
Authorities so far have not managed to link the anthrax attacks with bin Laden's network, but they have not ruled out such a connection.
Whoever is responsible, the bioterror campaign in the United States apparently has spread to Pakistan, where a Karachi man is being treated for anthrax, his doctor said Saturday.
In southeastern Africa, Zimbabwe medical authorities are dealing with an apparently "natural" outbreak of anthrax. At least 15 persons have caught the disease apparently after butchering infected cows state radio reported Saturday, and mass vaccinations are under way.

Pakistani being treated
It is the only known case of anthrax transmitted by mail outside the United States, and doctors in Pakistan expect the patient to recover.
The Karachi man was admitted to the private Aga Khan hospital last week after a letter containing the potentially deadly disease was delivered to the foreign bank where he worked, the doctor told Agence France-Presse. His condition was not life-threatening, added the doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"He definitely will not die. His condition is OK. He will be out in a week or so," he said.
The anthrax case was the first reported in Pakistan linked to suspicious mail following a series of similar apparent biological weapon attacks in the United States.
Aga Khan hospital officials in Karachi confirmed last week that the hospital had received three suspected anthrax samples delivered in letters to at least two foreign banks in Karachi.
The doctor said early Saturday that the man he was treating was the only person at the hospital to have contracted the disease.
He did not name the bank but said it was a branch of a major international financial institution located in the business district of southern Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city and commercial hub.
Private mail operators in Karachi said last week that security measures had been stepped up following the anthrax scares.
"We have been very strict in our mail service and are taking extra measures after reports of anthrax cases in the United States," an official from TCS courier service, Shafiq Ahmed, told Agence France-Presse.
In Paris, a suspicious envelope containing powder and addressed to the Iranian Embassy arrived Friday at the Montparnasse Tower, French police said.
Staff from the central police laboratory were sent to check the letter. Two persons who had been in contact with the envelope were sent to a hospital, but the tower was not evacuated. Thousands of false alarms have been reported in France since the first anthrax scares in the United States.

Saudis draw up plan
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has formed a committee to combat any outbreak of the disease, newspapers in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, reported yesterday amid a new bioterror scare in the kingdom.
The committee, headed by a Health Ministry undersecretary, will coordinate the efforts of government departments and draw up a contingency plan to tackle the potentially fatal disease, the daily Al-Watan said, quoting government sources.
The kingdom, which has examined 27 parcels containing suspicious white powder, has experienced two more anthrax scares in the south and east of the country.
It was the third Gulf Arab country, after Bahrain and Kuwait, targeted by anthrax hoaxes following transmission of the disease through mail in the United States.
An aluminum factory in Dammam in the oil-rich eastern province was evacuated after receiving four envelopes containing white powder, the English-language Arab News reported.
A Filipino secretary who opened the envelopes was rushed to a hospital for anthrax testing but was discharged when tests turned up negative. Arab News quoted an employee as saying that one of the letters contained a note saying, "Anthrax spores are being sent to you."
One letter was addressed to the factory's general manager and three others to top executives. Management reported the case to local authorities.
In another case, authorities in the southern Assir province conducted urgent anthrax tests on a health employee who received an envelope containing white powder.
The employee found a note in the envelope saying, "Congratulations on the new guest: anthrax."
Prince Khaled al-Faisal, the governor of Assir province, said the powder tested negative.
Health Minister Osama Shobokshi said on Saturday that 27 mail parcels containing suspicious white powder had been examined in recent days, adding that initial tests had been negative.
Saudi Arabia had its first anthrax scare on Wednesday when three parcels containing a suspicious white powder arrived in Riyadh and in the western city of Jeddah.

Embassies shut in Dhaka
In Bangladesh, where the U.S. Embassy and the Australian High Commission in Dhaka reported suspect packages on Tuesday, a day after the British High Commission was evacuated when an envelope was found to contain a suspicious white substance, the health minister said yesterday that no cases of anthrax had been confirmed.
"If anyone is found with anthrax bacteria, we have adequate facilities to diagnose the disease and give proper treatment," Health Minister Khondaker Mosharraf Hossain said in Dhaka, the capital, urging people not to panic.
He said government embassies and offices had reported four suspicious packages so far.
In Sri Lanka, which has not had a case of anthrax since 1979, the French Embassy in Colombo was closed last week after mail arrived containing a white powder said to resemble spores of the potentially fatal bacteria. A French diplomat said it will reopen this week. "We have safely isolated the room where the suspicious mail was received, and the embassy will be open while we wait for the results of the test," the diplomat said.
Suspicious mail also was received by the U.S., Australian, British, and Indian missions in Colombo, the state television channel, the American Express Bank office and several institutions.
In Italy, an Alitalia flight from Naples to Paris was canceled by an anthrax alert on Saturday after an employee found an unidentified white powder in the baggage hold, officials at the southern Italian airport said.
The employee alerted the police, who called in a special bioterrorism team that took away the substance for analysis. Officials said neither passengers nor crew on the plane had come into contact with the powder.
Like other countries, Italy has seen a rash of anthrax alerts, but all of them so far have turned out to be false alarms.

Suspected hoax in Agra
In India, fears of anthrax turned malicious with hoaxes in the mail.
A suspicious-looking envelope in the Taj Mahal town of Agra was immediately sent by the postal staff for testing Saturday when it leaked a suspicious powder. The letter was addressed to a resident of an Agra area housing railway employees. A police officer said the white powder was most likely to be a hoax.
It was sent to Lucknow, capital of Uttar Pradesh state, for laboratory tests.
"The envelope appears to have been sent from within the city, merely with the aim to create a nuisance by raising a false alarm," said the officer.
A similarly suspicious item of mail was received in the neighboring town of Mathura and also was sent to the lab in Lucknow. Sources said the powder in the envelope found in Mathura resembled a pesticide chemical.
But a real outbreak of anthrax has occurred in the southeastern African country of Zimbabwe.
Health officials there have started a mass vaccination campaign after at least 15 persons contracted anthrax, apparently after butchering infected cows, state radio reported Saturday. Of the 15, two are in serious condition and are receiving treatment at a hospital in the central town of Kwekwe.
On Friday, the Herald newspaper quoted Midlands provincial medical director Christopher Zishiri as saying that the latest outbreak was first noticed in cattle in early October, and the first human case was reported Oct. 20.

Zimbabweans get shots
The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corp. said a "massive vaccination" campaign had begun.
The state radio report accused white farmers of spreading the disease to derail a pact that the government reached with Commonwealth ministers last month to end political violence in exchange for help with the redistribution of white-owned farmland to the black majority.
Without giving any evidence for the claim, the radio said: "It's the work of white farmers to derail the Abuja accord."
Spreading fear through the United States because of its use and potential as a biological weapon, anthrax periodically breaks out in Zimbabwe, where it can spread naturally from cattle to people.
Dr. Zishiri has accused the nation's veterinary services of lagging in their response to the outbreak. Last December, an anthrax outbreak in Zimbabwe killed nine persons in similar circumstances in villages about 60 miles west of Harare, the capital.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide