Dar al-Hayat: Incidents of Thallium poisioning in Basrah, Suspicions that an unknown group distributed it in the province.


Basrah – Ahmad Wahid

The Health Department in Basrah observed incidents of disease that it has described as “strange,” that ended in the death of two people and the poisoning of tens of others as a result of the spread of, “Dangerous substances and attempts to meddle with the health of the citizens by exploiting the national vaccination campaign in the province.”

The Health Department announced the death of two people due to poisoning by the substance “Thallium” that an “unknown group” spread in the Nazran area of the Abi al-Khasib district” in southeastern Basrah (490 kilometers south of Baghdad.)

The General Director for the Department, Doctor Riyad al-Amir told al-Hayat that, “The residents said that a team claiming that it was from the government distributed the deadly substance while saying that it exterminated rodents. The team was wearing clothes that were unlike those worn by teams from the Health (Department).”

He added, “We are trying to cooperate with the province’s security apparatus, the Agricultural Department, and the Basrah Provincial Council to understand the source of this deadly substance.”

He indicated that, “The insecticides that the (Health) Department’s teams were given by the Ministry of Health don’t have the deadly substance Thallium in them.”

He pointed out that, “This substance in banned internationally and is only sold to licensed health offices, nevertheless some who have gotten a hold of it have distributed it widely at a cheap price which has made it easily obtainable.” He added that, “The case is now in the hands of the security apparatus and there are criminal investigations searching for the truth of the matter.” He explained that, “The substance has caused nervous system illnesses and resulted in death.”

The rapid events have led to the use of a fast-response unit at Basrah area hospitals seeking to treat those injured by this poisoning. A doctor from the unit, Muhammad Talib, said that, “There has been 16 cases that have come in over the past two days.”

A member of the health committee in the Basrah Provincial Council, Sukna al-Maliki, explained that, “There is a committee being formed to look into the places that this substance was found.” He added that, “We have informed the border crossings to increase their vigilance to prevent the entrance of this substance which is internationally banned.” This has coincided with a national vaccination campaign in the province to combat polio, and led to health groups to issue a warning to only receive vaccination teams after confirming that they belong to the (Health) Department, so as not to have the citizens not reject these teams outright.”

Muhammad ‘Abd al-Rizaq, Director of the Mercy Health Clinic in Basrah, told “al-Hayat”, “Our clinic is packed with people seeking information even though there are traveling health teams. The residents are scared of the possibility that the mobile health teams doing vaccinations were infiltrated by saboteurs, and it has led to much panic.”