February 13, 2007 in Nation/World

12 bodies exhumed in poisoning probe

The Spokesman-Review

Authorities in Panama on Monday exhumed the bodies of 12 people who may have died from taking medications contaminated with diethylene glycol, a chemical cousin of antifreeze.

Medical examiners took tissue samples from the corpses after relatives voiced suspicions that their loved ones were killed last year by tainted cough syrup, antihistamine tablets, calamine lotion or rash ointment.

The exhumations are part of an investigation into a scandal in which companies allegedly sold tainted ingredients to the government health agency, which used them to produce medicines that have been blamed in the deaths of at least 51 people.

Dozens more were sickened by the medications contaminated with diethylene glycol, which can cause kidney and neurological damage.

Investigators said the bodies exhumed Monday were buried between September and December, and this round of tests may help determine whether more exhumations will be needed.


Attack suspected near U.S. base

Japanese police were investigating a suspected extremist attack on the U.S. Army after two small explosions occurred outside a military base south of Tokyo, police said Tuesday.

There were no reports of injuries or damage at Camp Zama or from nearby residents, Kanagawa prefectural police spokesman Hiroyoshi Ichikawa said.

Investigators found a pair of metal tubes planted in the ground at a nearby park. They were believed to be used as rocket launchers and pointed toward the base, Ichikawa said.

He said investigators suspect an attack by leftist extremists, but cannot rule out a possibility of a terrorist attack.

The Army was investigating the blast, said an official at Camp Zama who spoke on condition of anonymity, adding that there were no reports of injuries or damage.


East Timor leader asks for extension

East Timor’s prime minister urged the Security Council Monday to extend the U.N. peacekeeping mission in his volatile country for one year, saying the next months will be critical as the Pacific nation prepares for its first national elections.

Security Council members were largely receptive at the meeting, praising Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta, a Nobel Peace laureate, for his efforts to pull the country together from political fighting last year that left at least 33 people dead and sent 150,000 people fleeing their homes.

“Building a state, from almost zero, is a Herculean task,” Ramos-Horta said. “I therefore plead with you to stay the course with us.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has recommended that the peacekeeping mission be extended for a year and an additional police unit be sent ahead of the April 9 presidential elections. A decision was expected later this month.

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