BEIJING, Oct. 9 (Xinhuanet) -- Hundreds of Iraqi
policemen fell ill from poisoning Sunday after having their evening meal at a
base located in the town of Numaniyah, southern Iraq.
Officials said they were investigating whether the poisoning was
intentional, according to medai reports Monday.
An official with the Environment Ministry said 11
policemen had died. However, the governor of Wasit province -- where the
poisoning took place -- denied any deaths, though he said some of the victims
were in critical condition. There was no immediate explanation for the
"Hundreds of soldiers were poisoned after taking food
and water in the iftar," said Wasit Governor Hamad al-Latif, referring to the
meal that breaks the sunrise-to-sunset Ramadan fast. "Investigations are under
way to determine the cause."
Some of the policemen began bleeding from the ears
and nose after the meal, said Jassim al-Atwan, an inspector for the environment
ministry, who was serving as a liaison in the investigation between the health
ministry and the base.
Samples of the food and water were being tested "to
determine the substance in them" and will be sent to Baghdad for further tests,
Between 600-700 policemen were affected to varying
degrees, and 11 who had the heaviest amount of the food had died, al-Atwan told
Some of the soldiers collapsed as soon as they stood
up from the meal, others fell "one after the other" as they headed out to the
yard in the base to line up in formation, al-Atwan said.
Iraqi ambulances and helicopters sent by the U.S.
military rushed the policemen to hospitals in Numaniyah and the nearby city of
The afflicted policemen belonged to the 4th division
of the National Police.
Al-Latif said food and water at the base are provided
by an Australian contractor working through Iraqi subcontractors. He did not
identify the Australian firm. Enditem