Online threat, cyanide swirl around death at Denver hotel |

Online threat, cyanide swirl around death at Denver hotel

Bill Scanlon and Judi Villa
Rocky Mountain News
Vail, CO Colorado

DENVER, Colorado ” The chemical in a jar next to a man found dead this week in a downtown hotel was sodium cyanide, Denver police said this morning.

Sodium cyanide is readily commercially available and is commonly found in rat poisoning and used to extract gold and other precious metals in mining.

The chemical’s identification should allay fears that the man’s death was part of a larger terrorist plot linked to the upcoming Democratic National Convention.

“It’s an isolated incident,” said Denver police Detective John White.

Saleman Abdirahman Dirie, 29, of Canada, had been living on the fourth floor of the Burnsley Hotel in Denver when he was found dead just two weeks before the start of the Democratic National Convention.

Denver police got the call from the Burnsley Hotel on Monday.

Noticing a container in the room and smelling the tell-tale odor of almonds on or near Dirie’s body, they realized they might be dealing with an extraordinary situation.

Haz-mat teams found a jar containing between a pint and a quart of the unknown substance.

The Burnsley Hotel was quiet this morning, a contrast from Tuesday when the place was swarming with FBI agents and technicians.

“Because of the suspicious nature of the death and the unidentified substance ” it leads to a lot of questions,” FBI Special Agent Kathy Wright, said Tuesday.

In fact, bloggers are abuzz today over a threatening posting by a man with nearly the same name as Dirie.

“Having the bible in one hand, and a bread in the other hand, is not a correct thing! Kill Them, Kill them, Kill them, that is my massage,!” read the comment posted by Abdirahman Dirie, on July 11 to a discussion group at

The bloggers had been discussing violence against Somali Christians, and Dirie apparently was taking the side of the Somali Muslims.

However, the blogger Abdirahman Dirie was continuing to blog on the subject of Christians and Moslems today, meaning it couldn’t be the same person, unless someone had usurped the name as a joke.

“We can’t comment on where the investigation might be leading us,” Wright, the FBI spokeswoman, said today, when asked about the possible connection with last month’s fiery blog posting.

Cyanide is what Saddam Hussein is accused of using as a genocide agent against the Kurds in his own country during the Iran-Iraq war.

And it was a sodium-cyanide bomb, capable of killing thousands, that was inadvertently sent to the wrong address in 2002 when it was meant to be delivered from a Texas white supremacist to a New Jersey white supremacist.

Cyanide also is used to make paper, textiles and plastics, and to develop photographs. Cyanide gas is used as a pest exterminator, too.

Sodium cyanide can be mixed with acids to make a chemical weapon.

Denver police say coroners suspected the presence of cyanide when they received Dirie’s body.

The Denver medical examiner won’t be announcing a cause of death until toxicology reports are done.

So far, the FBI doesn’t have information to conclude that Dirie had terrorist ties, Wright said.

The FBI is assisting Denver police in the investigation both because of the suspicious jar and because Dirie “is a foreign national,” Wright said this morning.

There’s probably no reason for the FBI to go back to the fourth-floor room, Wright said.

Denver police continue to say that no foul play is suspected in Dirie’s death.

Cyanide has another use ” it is sometimes used by people who want to kill themselves.

Asked if Dirie’s death might be a suicide, Wright said, “It’s a little too early to really say.”

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