WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon said on Tuesday it had received mail suspected of containing the deadly poison ricin, including an envelope that a U.S. official said was addressed to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
The Pentagon said in a statement it had put its mail facility under quarantine and that the FBI was analyzing the envelopes.
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U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the envelopes initially tested positive for ricin after being detected by Pentagon police on Monday at a mail sorting facility.
The facility is on the Pentagon compound but not in the main building.
Ricin is found naturally in castor beans but it takes a deliberate act to convert it into a biological weapon. Ricin can cause death within 36 to 72 hours from exposure to an amount as small as a pinhead. No known antidote exists.
U.S. government building have sporadically received packages with suspected ricin, including in 2013, when ricin-laced letters were addressed to a U.S. senator, the White House and a Mississippi justice official.
Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, letters containing another deadly substance – anthrax spores – were mailed to the Washington offices of two senators and to media outlets in New York and Florida.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart; editing by James Dalgleish)