Anthrax suspected in death on ship

Posted: April 29, 2003

WASHINGTON — U.S. law-enforcement officials said yesterday that they were 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 he and federal police suspect that anthrax might have killed Ibrahim Saved Soliman Ibrahim.

Ibrahim had just reached his ship, a bauxite carrier, on April 11 in the port of Porto Trombetas, Brazil, when he told shipmates he felt sick. He had been asked to deliver a suitcase to someone in Canada, he told them, and had opened the suitcase out of curiosity. He 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.

Ibrahim's ship and crew of 30 were in quarantine yesterday six miles off Halifax, Nova Scotia. A team of Canadian health officials boarded the ship Saturday and conducted tests. Results are expected by Thursday, Health Canada spokeswoman Tracey Taweel said.

The crew members are in excellent health, she said.

The ship was bound for Port Alfred, Quebec. Interpol alerted Canadian authorities last week.

A rash of anthrax mailings in the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks 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 yesterday that there was a "strong suspicion" that the dead man might have been transporting anthrax.

Luiz Malcher, head of Renato Chavez Forensic Sciences Center in Belem, Brazil, said an autopsy found that bacteria had destroyed Ibrahim's organs. "The bacteria colonies were similar to anthrax," he said. "If it isn't anthrax, it is an extremely virulent bacteria."

Contact reporter Shannon McCaffrey

at 202-383-6164 or smccaffrey@krwashington.com.

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