A doctor treated the terrorist for a leg lesion last summer.
experts say he probably had the disease.
By Elizabeth Shogren And Josh Meyer, The Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON -- FBI officials said Saturday that a report that one of
Sept. 11 terrorists may have had a case of cutaneous anthrax last
is just one of many dead-end leads that have bedeviled
A Florida doctor who treated Ahmed Ibrahim A. Al Haznawi for a dark
on his leg in June now believes that wound may have been
caused by exposure
to anthrax, according to experts at the Johns
Hopkins Center for Civilian
Biodefense Strategies. The case was first
reported Saturday by the New
That information persuaded the bioterrorism experts that there may be
link between the terrorists--who hijacked four planes Sept. 11,
two into the World Trade Center and another into the
subsequent mailings of anthrax-laced letters.
After interviewing Dr. Christos Tsonas, who treated Haznawi at Holy
Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, the experts concluded that
was "the most probable and coherent interpretation
of the data available,"
they wrote in a recent memorandum that has
circulated among federal investigators.
But Saturday, FBI officials said they still believe the 19 hijackers
came into contact with anthrax, noting that authorities scoured
apartments and personal effects for traces of the deadly
bacteria and found
"This was fully investigated and widely vetted among multiple
several months ago," FBI chief spokesman John E. Collingwood
said in a
statement in response to the report. "Exhaustive testing
did not support
that anthrax was present anywhere the hijackers had
"While we always welcome new information, nothing new has in fact
said Collingwood, an FBI assistant director.
Another FBI official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because
anthrax case is ongoing, confirmed that one of the hijackers had
at a South Florida hospital for a "leg lesion" and that
the suspected lead
hijacker, Mohamed Atta, had sought treatment for
skin irritation on at
least one of his hands.
Those incidents, coupled with the hijackers' reported interest in
access to crop dusters, would appear to give some credence to
that the Sept. 11 attacks could be somehow linked to the
the FBI official acknowledged.
But the official said FBI agents, a battery of specially trained
and other biochemical experts all had aggressively
investigated the issue
and found no connections.
"We did look into this some time ago. This was fully investigated,"
the FBI official. "It's a theory, but there's no evidence. It's
there. We just have no evidence to feed the speculation that
any of those
guys came into contact with anthrax."
The FBI hypothesizes that the anthrax mailings are the work of a
American male loner with some kind of scientific
expertise, access to anthrax
and a laboratory, and some kind of
grudge against the government.
One senior Justice Department official, also speaking on the
of anonymity, said recently that authorities are so stumped
by who may
have sent the envelopes that investigators fear they may
be in for a "Unabomber-type
investigation," in which it may take
years--and a lucky break--to determine
who was responsible.
FBI agents believe their most promising avenue for solving the
may be a scientific breakthrough that can distinguish between
the virulent Ames strain of anthrax, which was used to kill
and sicken at least 13 others last fall.
Tsonas could not be reached for comment Saturday. A spokeswoman for
Cross Hospital said it is cooperating with authorities but, at
would not discuss the matter.
Tsonas said Haznawi came to the Holy Cross emergency room with
man, believed to have been hijacker Ziad Samir Jarrah,
according to the
New York Times. Haznawi told Tsonas that he
developed the sore after bumping
into a suitcase. Tsonas cleaned the
lesion and prescribed an antibiotic.
He never considered that the
infection was anthrax--a rarely seen disease
at that point -- until
he reviewed the case in October at investigators'
Steven M. Block, a professor of biology and applied physics at
University who has advised the government on bioterrorism,
making assumptions based on the report that Haznawi
may have had an anthrax
"This may or may not be related to the anthrax letters that killed
Stevens and four others," he said, referring to the first anthrax
a photo editor at American Media Inc. in Boca Raton, Fla.
"There are lots of possibilities here," Block said. "One shouldn't