By Tony Weaver

An American scientist, being questioned by the FBI in connection with a spate of anthrax attacks that killed five people after the September 11 terrorist attacks, has close ties to imprisoned Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) leader, Eugene Terre'blanche.

His CV says he served in the old South African Defence Force.

Steven Hatfill, 48, graduated as a medical doctor at the University of Zimbabwe in 1983, and gained a master of science degree at the University of Stellenbosch's medical school in 1990.

Sources say that, around 1987 or early 1988, Hatfill used the Milnerton Shooting Association's shooting range in Table View for training the AWB's elite Aquila Brigade, Terre'blanche's bodyguards and shock troops.

Hatfill worked in the university's radiobiology laboratory in the department of radiation oncology in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

A former colleague of his, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, "He alienated a lot of the staff at the radiobiology laboratory because he always carried a 9mm pistol, and because he used to boast about his military past. He particularly alienated the women staff because he would invite them to wild parties."

The source said Hatfill was employed as a medical doctor in the Department of Haematology, where he completed his MSc.

According to US media reports, although Hatfill is not necessarily regarded as a suspect in the anthrax attacks, FBI agents searched his Maryland house last week.

An Associated Press report said FBI agents searched a Florida storage facility owned by Hatfill, and that he is "being investigated by authorities searching for the source of the anthrax attacks that killed five people".

A Cape Times source said Hatfill's AWB connection emerged when a staff member spotted a newspaper article about Aquila's training camps. "The article was accompanied by photographs, one of which was a group shot of Eugene Terre'blanche surrounded by uniformed members of Aquila - including Hatfill.

"This photo was put up on the lab notice board - and led to Hatfill boasting that he was the weapons trainer of the Western Cape Branch of Aquila."

The source said there had been considerable doubt about the validity of Hatfill's research while he was at Stellenbosch.

"Subsequently there were a number of inquiries from investigators worldwide who had tried to repeat the work, but failed. By this time Hatfill had moved to Oxford University."

The source added: "I remember we were discussing the film Top Gun one day and he told us that he had trained as a 'top gun' in America, but qualified too late to see action in Vietnam, so he went to Rhodesia to fight for the Selous Scouts."

According to the Baltimore Sun, Hatfill worked at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases for about two years in the late 1990s.

"Like other researchers in the field, he has been vaccinated against anthrax, has had access to labs where it is stored and has some knowledge of its use as a weapon," the Sun said.