Was Yasser Arafat Poisoned?

Scientists in Switzerland believe that Yasser Arafat may have been poisoned with polonium, a radioactive substance.

Yasser Arafat's Tomb

The tomb of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.  Recently, scientists discovered traces of a radioactive isotope on Arafat's body, suggesting he was poisoned.

In November 2004, longtime leader to the Palestinian people Yasser Arafat passed away at the age of 75.  Due to the aftermath, in which Arafat's widow Suha refused officials the ability to autopsy Arafat's body following his death, many conspiracy theories have been considered in what caused the leader's death.  While the official cause of death is complications related to a stroke, many suspect that Israeli agents poisoned Arafat, or he succumbed to a lesser-desired illness.  Now, as Arafat's body is being exhumed to re-examine the circumstances of his death, scientists in Switzerland are claiming that radioactive polonium was on Arafat's clothing, making it highly likely he was poisoned.

Swiss scientists published a report over the previous weekend in the Lancet, one of the most prestigious medical publications in the world.  In it, they examined Yasser Arafat's possessions, including clothing, along with other items in Arafat's vicinity as a control vicinity.  After doing examinations, they focused on clothing that had bodily fluids such as blood and urine.  There, they discovered that several of these particular items contained a higher level of radioactive isotope polonium-210 than can be explained through normal means.  Following further examination, they determined that the level of polonium-210 is consistent with that of ingesting a lethal dose of the isotope.

Interestingly, shortly after the results were published in the Lancet, the head of Russia's Federal Medico-Biological Agency (FMBA) initially rejected the claim that polonium-210 was found in Yasser Arafat's possessions in a statement, before that statement was withdrawn by the agency, who said they merely handed over their results.  Russia was, along with Switzerland and France, given samples from Arafat's body to determine the cause of his death.  This contradiction may put the Swiss findings in doubt.  However, making things interesting is the fact that Alexander Litivineko, a Russian spy who defected to the United Kingdom, also died of polonium-210 poisoning, which was believed to have been given to him by Russian agents.  Russia's initial rejection and subsequent withdrawal, along with Litivineko's death, suggest that the country may have played a role in Arafat's death as well.

(Image Sources:  World Economic Forum, Wikimedia Commons)

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