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Pakistan Says Prime Minister Was Mailed Anthrax Spores

February 1, 2012
Pakistan Says Prime Minister Was Mailed Anthrax Spores
By SALMAN MASOOD
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, received a postal package containing anthrax spores four months ago, his spokesman said Wednesday, adding a new dimension to the security threats faced by the country’s political and military leadership.

The package was intercepted by the prime minister’s security staff in October, according to the spokesman, Akram Shaheedi. The Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, a government laboratory, established that the suspicious white powder it contained was anthrax spores, he said. A criminal case was filed on Tuesday, according to an Islamabad police officer, The Associated Press reported.

Government officials gave contradictory accounts of the identity of the sender, and they offered little sense of motive. While Islamist militants have repeatedly targeted senior government officials in suicide and bomb attacks, an assassination attempt using biological weapons would be an anomaly.

Mr. Shaheedi said that law enforcement authorities had identified the sender as an associate professor at Jamshoro University in the southern province of Sindh. But he could not say whether the professor, a Ms. Zulekha, had been arrested or detained.

A senior police officer in charge of presidential security, Hakim Khan, gave a different account. He denied any knowledge of the suspect Mr. Shaheedi named, but he confirmed that a police team had been sent to Jamshoro to investigate. The packet had been sent from a small post office on the Jamshoro University campus, he said.

Mr. Khan said the case had been registered under a provision of Pakistan’s penal code that deals with the act of sending poison with the intention of causing harm.

In November 2001, suspicious letters containing anthrax spores were sent to three private businesses, including the country’s largest Urdu-language daily, Jang, in the southern port city of Karachi. No motive was ever determined.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/02/world/asia/pakistan-reveals-prime-minister-gilani-was-sent-anthrax.html?_r=2&tntemail1=y...