Polonium Found on Yasser Arafat's Final Belongings, Palestinians Agree To Exhume Leader's Body

Arafat's remains may be exhumed after scientists found evidence he may have been poisoned with polonium.


The widow of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has asked that Arafat's remains be exhumed after abnormal levels of polonium-210, a radioactive poison, were found on his final personal belongings, The Associated Press reports.

As part of an investigation by international news organization Al Jazeera, Swiss scientists tested the biological fluids that stained Arafat's clothes and discovered polonium, indicating Arafat had the dangerous substance in his body when he died in November 2004.

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"I was shocked first, of course, because it's very dangerous poison," Arafat's widow Suha told Al Jazeera. "But I was releived that we are on the steps of knowing the truth."

Arafat died in a French military hospital in 2004, reportedly due to a massive stroke. But his death and the circumstances surrounding it were mysterious, which fed speculation that the Nobel Prize winner and advocate for Palestinian indpendence was killed by political enemies. Israel has always denied any involvement in Arafat's death.

The Palestinian Authority and its president Mahmoud Abbas have agreed in principle to exuming Arafat's body, which is buried in the West Bank.

Polonium-210 was the same substance found in Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian spy and harsh critic of Vladimir Putin, in 2006. While dying of the resulting acute radiation syndrome, Litvinenko publicly accused Putin of the poisoning.

Seth Cline is a reporter with U.S. News and World Report. Contact him at scline@usnews.com or follow him on Twitter.