The mysterious death of Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian Liberation organisation (PLO) leader who died in Paris in 2004, could have been caused by poisoning, Al Jazeera reports.A nine-month investigation from the Qatari news network found unusual levels of polonium on Arafat’s belongings. The radioactive substance was on a number of items provided by Arafat’s widow:
More importantly, tests reveal that Arafat’s final personal belongings – his clothes, his toothbrush, even his iconic kaffiyeh – contained abnormal levels of polonium, a rare, highly radioactive element. Those personal effects, which were analysed at the Institut de Radiophysique in Lausanne, Switzerland, were variously stained with Arafat’s blood, sweat, saliva and urine. The tests carried out on those samples suggested that there was a high level of polonium inside his body when he died.
Polonium became notorious after its alleged use to poison Alexander Litvinenko, a renegade Russian intelligence officer who died in London in 2006. Images of Litvinenko on his deathbed may be indelibly tied to the radioactive compound, which reportedly left a radioactive trail all the way back to the Russia.. Litvinenko’s case was never solved, and Russia has refused to hand over the main suspect to British authorities, but the two suspected polonium poisoning victims did experience similar symptoms, the Jerusalem Post notes
Amazingly, Al Jazeera reports that a larger amount of polonium was found in Arafat’s case than Litvinenko’s (only minute traces were found in the Litvinenko case):
[Arafat’s] toothbrushes had polonium levels of 54mBq; the urine stain on his underwear, 180mBq. (Another man’s pair of underwear, used as a control, measured just 6.7mBq.)
French authorities have never revealed the exact cause of Arafat’s death, prompting a wave of conspiracy theories, AFP reports.The New York Times once said the death was caused by a stroke, while one of Arafat’s own advisors argued he was poisoned buy Israel. An inconclusive 2005 Palestinian report ruled out cancer, AIDS or poisoning.
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