Eight years after the death of iconic Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, his remains were exhumed today, with experts set to test for signs that the late President was poisoned.
The process was carried out in secrecy, with Arafat's grave carefully shielded from the public eye and media kept far away, but Palestinian sources confirmed the remains had been removed for testing this morning.
"At 5:00 am (0830 IST), experts began to remove the stones and began opening the grave in an orderly fashion. The remains were then transferred to a mosque adjacent to the grave for the removal of samples," a Palestinian source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The source said only a Palestinian doctor would be allowed to directly touch the remains and remove the samples, but that the process was being conducted in front of Swiss, Russian and French experts.
After the samples are removed, the remains are to be reburied in a military ceremony expected to be broadcast live on Palestinian television.
For weeks now, Arafat's grave in a mausoleum on the Muqataa presidential site from which he once governed has been hidden from view by blue tarpaulins.
The mufti of Jerusalem, Mohamed Hussein, arrived at the Muqataa this morning and told AFP he would be present at the opening of the tomb.
The samples being collected are to be tested for the radioactive substance polonium as part of a new investigation into whether Arafat was poisoned.
The probe was prompted by an investigation carried out by the Al-Jazeera news channel, which commissioned a Swiss lab to test personal effects belonging to the late leader that were given to them by his widow Suha.
The tests revealed the presence of the toxic substance polonium, and prompted calls for the exhumation of Arafat's remains for new testing.
Arafat's Remains Exhumed As Poison Probe Begins
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