Hundreds of Iraqi police poisoned by foods 2006-10-09 10:47:07

    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 contradictory reports.

    "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, al-Latif said.

    Between 600-700 policemen were affected to varying degrees, and 11 who had the heaviest amount of the food had died, al-Atwan told AP.

    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 Kut.

    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


Editor: Wang Yan
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