Belgium finds toxic powder in letters

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The Independent Online

Belgium was at the centre of a terrorist alert yesterday after the discovery of envelopes containing toxic chemicals, addressed to the Belgian Prime Minister and the British, US and Saudi Arabian embassies.

Belgium was at the centre of a terrorist alert yesterday after the discovery of envelopes containing toxic chemicals, addressed to the Belgian Prime Minister and the British, US and Saudi Arabian embassies.

In all, 10 letters containing the chemicals were intercepted by security officers and one was delivered to the British embassy in Brussels.

Their origin was unclear but the authorities were investigating a possible link to the trial of 23 al-Qa'ida suspects in Brussels, charged with crimes including planning attacks on American targets in Europe.

Anne-Françoise Gailly, a spokeswoman for the Belgian Health Ministry, said the toxins were adamsite, an arsenic derivative used to eradicate rats, and hydrazine, a substance used as missile fuel, which can irritate the eyes, skin and respiratory passages.

The letters to Guy Verhofstadt, the Prime Minister, and the US embassy were found at a post office in Gent. Letters were also found in Antwerp, Ostend airport and a court building in Brussels. About a dozen post office employees and three airport staff were taken to hospital and later discharged.

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