Details of 2001 anthrax attack probe revealed

August 7th, 2008 - 9:14 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 7 (DPA) The US Justice Department Wednesday unsealed hundreds of court documents relating to a government scientist believed responsible for the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks that terrified the nation. The documents detail an extensive series of search warrants for the properties of Bruce Ivins, who reportedly committed suicide last week when informed that he was to be indicted for the anthrax-laced mailings sent only weeks after the Sep 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Ivins, 62, worked as an anthrax researcher at the government’s elite bio-defence laboratory in Fort Detrick, Maryland. He had never been officially named as a suspect, but the court documents reveal that search warrants for his property were issued as early as October 2007.

Letters containing anthrax were sent to media outlets and members of Congress in September and October 2001, killing five people and infecting at least 22 others. Nobody has been charged in the case.

According to the court documents, at the time of those mailings, Ivins owned a “large flask of highly purified anthrax spores that possess certain genetic mutations identical to the anthrax used in the attacks”.

Ivins also provided investigators with false samples of anthrax from his laboratory and could not provide an “adequate explanation” of his work at the lab on the nights the letters were sent.

Ivins died last week from a large dose of prescription Tylenol mixed with codeine, according to media reports.

Until last week, the only publicly known link to the anthrax case had been one of Ivins’ colleagues. Steven Hatfill, who was cleared of any involvement, won a $5.8- million settlement from the Justice Department after his name was leaked to the media as a “person of interest”.

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