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Man Held in Anthrax Case in Pakistan

Asia: Newspaper had received letter believed tainted. Two people were exposed, president says.

November 04, 2001|From Associated Press

KARACHI, Pakistan — Police detained a man Saturday in connection with a mailed letter believed to contain anthrax.

The man, Mohammed Yousaf, said a friend had put powder in an envelope along with a news release that was sent from Yousaf's office to Pakistan's largest Urdu language newspaper, police said. It wasn't clear when Yousaf, who works for a nongovernmental organization that runs education projects in Karachi, became aware that the powder had been put there.

Police were searching for the friend, Mohammed Salim, an employee at a computer company in the port city.

The editorial offices of the daily Jang reopened Saturday, one day after they were sealed for decontamination.

The paper has set up a special room for handling mail and provided masks and gloves to workers who open letters, said reporter Zahid Hussain.

At a news conference in Islamabad, the capital, President Pervez Musharraf said two people at the paper had been exposed to anthrax but had not been infected.

Dozens of staffers, including the reporter who opened the letter, were taking antibiotics as a precaution.

On Friday, workers in protective suits sealed the newsroom after tests at a private laboratory showed the presence of anthrax in powder on the press release, which arrived Oct. 23.

However, Health Minister Abdul Malik Kansi questioned the accuracy of the test and said the Pakistan National Institute of Health would conduct its own examination of the powder.

Officials feared that the incident might be in retaliation for the war in neighboring Afghanistan.

The newspaper generally has been supportive of Musharraf, who has sided with the United States in the war against Afghanistan's Taliban regime and Osama bin Laden.

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