Suicide leader 'got anthrax from Iraqis'

Time of article published Oct 25, 2001

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Berlin - Security experts in Germany are investigating whether hijack suspect Mohammed Atta carried anthrax spores allegedly obtained from Iraqi agents to the United States, a German newspaper reported on Thursday.

Germany's Bild daily cited unnamed Israeli intelligence sources as saying Atta, who is suspected of flying a plane which crashed into the World Trade Centre, received anthrax spores from Iraqi agents during two visits to the Czech Republic.

The mass circulation newspaper reported investigators saying they suspected Atta, who had lived in the northern German city of Hamburg, carried the spores to New York where customs officials checked his luggage for drugs and not bacteria.

Federal prosecutors leading the investigation into suspects in Germany linked to the September 11 attacks were not immediately available for comment on the report.

A series of mail attacks involving anthrax have killed three people and made nine others ill in the United States since the September 11 airliner assaults.

Czech police confirmed this week that Atta visited Prague twice.

A US source recently told Reuters that Atta met an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague in June 2000 and April 2001, but cautioned the meetings were not evidence Iraq was connected to the attacks on New York and Washington.

Iraqi officials denied any link this week to the release of killer anthrax bacteria in the US and accused Washington of fabricating the anthrax attacks as a pretext to broaden its anti-terrorism campaign to include more countries.

Atta, an Egyptian, lived for much of the 1990s in Hamburg where two of the other suspected pilots in the suicide attacks on the US were also students.

Germany has issued arrest warrants for three other men for planning and helping carry out the assault. German Interior Minister Otto Schily said on Monday members of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network may still be in Germany.

The United States has named Bin Laden as its chief suspect in the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, which killed 5 400 people. - Reuters

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