In a strange twist, the FBI said Sunday that the wife of the editor of the tabloid newspaper where anthrax has been discovered rented apartments in Delray Beach, Fla., to two men suspected of crashing a hijacked jetliner into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.
FBI officials said the connection appeared to be a coincidence, and that there was no evidence of a link between the anthrax at The Sun's offices in Boca Raton, Fla., and the terrorists.
Orihuela said Gloria Irish, wife of Sun editor Michael Irish, rented apartments over the summer to suspected hijackers Marwan Al-Shehhi and Hamza Alghamdi.
Both were aboard United Airlines Flight 175, the second jet to strike the World Trade Center in New York.
The Sun is owned by American Media Inc., the company that employed Robert Stevens, a photo editor who died this month from a form of anthrax. Two other employees tested positive for anthrax and five others are being retested after positive initial results.
Gloria Irish, a real estate agent, refused to comment.
The FBI also has questioned a Delray Beach pharmacist who might have sold antibiotics and skin ointments to Al-Shehhi and another suspected hijacker, Mohamed Atta. Pharmacist Gregg Chatterton said he told FBI agents that Atta wanted something to treat skin irritations on his hands, which appeared to have been washed in bleach. Bleach can be used for decontamination after exposure to disease.
The revelations came as the Bush administration announced that it was expanding its arsenal against anthrax by buying enough antibiotics to treat up to 12 million people. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said the White House would request an additional $1.5 billion for the drugs and other bioterrorism programs.
Thousands tested for anthrax
The U.S. currently has enough drugs to treat 2 million people for anthrax for 60 days, Thompson said.
Thousands of people have now been tested for the disease, and investigators responded to numerous reports of mysterious powder found around the world, including the Chicago area, Britain, Brazil, Canada and Belgium. Most of the reports proved to be false alarms.
But the number of people believed to have been exposed to the disease rose Sunday as New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani announced that three more people who handled an anthrax-tainted letter sent to NBC News had been found to have the bacteria on their bodies.
Nevada officials said four people who may have come in contact with a contaminated letter sent to a branch office of Microsoft Corp. tested negative for inhaled anthrax. They were awaiting test results on two others.
Thompson described anthrax-contaminated mail as bio-terrorism but said it was too early to blame Islamic militant Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks, or his al-Qaida terrorist network.
"It's a biological agent. It's terrorism, it's a crime. ... But whether or not it's connected to al-Qaida, we can't say conclusively," he told CNN's "Late Edition."
"It could be a domestic source. It could be somebody holding a grudge. It could be ... a copycat kind of a situation," he said.
Officials said they still do not have evidence linking the anthrax outbreaks in Florida and New York to terrorists.
"We should consider this potential that it is linked," Attorney General John Ashcroft said on NBC's "Meet the Press."