Medical tests suggest Yasser Arafat may have been poisoned

Yasser Arafat
A nine-month forensic toxicological investigation into the death of Yasser Arafat has raised the possibility that the Palestinian leader may have been poisoned with a radioactive substance. The Institut de Radiophysique (IRA) in Lausanne, Switzerland, has announced the discovery of significant traces of polonium-210 on the personal artifacts that Arafat used during his final days. Speaking at a press conference in Switzerland on Monday, IRA Director Dr. Francois Bochud said that the Institute could “confirm that we measured an unexplained, elevated amount of unsupported polonium-210 in the belongings of Mr. Arafat that contained stains of biological fluids”. According to the IRA, some of the Fatah founder’s personal belongings, including his underwear and his toothbrush, contained levels of polonium that were as many as ten times higher than those in random samples used as control subjects in the study. The findings of the investigation, which was sponsored by the Qatari news channel Al-Jazeera, may eventually shed light into the cause of Arafat’s death, which remains a medical mystery. Doctors in the West Bank and France have confirmed that the Palestinian leader was in sound health until he suddenly fell ill in mid-October 2004, and that his body showed no symptoms of any known disease. Polonium-210 made news headlines in a major way in November 2006, when it was identified as the poison used to kill Alexander Litvinenko. Litvinenko, a former employee of the Soviet KGB and its successor organization, the FSB, defected with his family to the United Kingdom in 2000. He soon became known as an increasingly vocal critic of the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2006, the Russian defector came down with radioactive poisoning soon after meeting a former FSB colleague, Andrey Lugovoy, in a London restaurant. The latter is believed by British authorities to have assassinated Litvinenko “with the backing of the Russian state”, though some observers dispute London’s allegations. It is not clear at this point whether the results of the IRA investigation point to an operational link between the deaths of Litvinenko and Arafat. It is worth noting that an exhumation of Arafat’s body and a careful analysis of his bones would be required in order to provide a higher level of certainty as to the  Palestinian leader’s exact cause of death. Reacting to the news of the forensic toxicological study, Arafat’s widow, Suha, called for the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority in the West Bank to exhume her husband’s body so that it can be forensically analyzed.


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