The Denver coroner said Thursday a man found dead in a downtown hotel room with a pound of highly toxic sodium cyanide nearby died from cyanide poisoning.
However, the medical examiner's office could not say if 29-year-old Saleman Abdirahman Dirie, of Ottawa, Canada killed himself.
His body was found Monday inside Room 408 at The Burnsley Hotel, which is about four blocks from the state Capitol.
Police spokesman John White identified the white powder as sodium cyanide, the crystal form of cyanide. Fire officials say they found a bottle containing about a pound of the white powder, or between a pint and a quart by volume. An expert told the Denver Post that the amount of cyanide is enough to kill hundreds of people.
White said Dirie had been dead for several days. Friends told The Ottawa Sun
that he was dead six days before he was discovered.
Foul play is not suspected and his death appears to be an isolated incident, White said.
Dirie's sister told CanWest News Service that her brother had been on medication for the past three years to treat his schizophrenia, but that he was not a terrorist.
The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force is assisting in the investigation but FBI spokeswoman Kathy Wright said the incident has no apparent connection to terrorism.
"You have a suspicious substance that was found in a hotel room in conjunction with person being a foreign national, and we have a lot of questions and that is why we are assisting," Wright told the Post
An online threat posted in July by a man with a similar name warned of death. The blog discussed the killing of Christians in Somalia by Islamists. The person who posted on the blog was a Muslim who appeared to condemn Christians.
"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 (sic),!" read the posting by Abdirahman Dirie on the 'Solmali's for Jesus' Blog.
It was not clear if Abdirahman Dirie and Saleman Abdirahman Dirie are the same person.
The Somali Justice Advocacy Center in St. Paul, Minn., said connecting Dirie's death to terrorism "is a rush to judgment."
On Tuesday, firefighters and hazmat crews joined the FBI at the hotel, where they cordoned off the neighborhood surrounding the hotel for a second time, and used the case as a "training exercise" in preparation to the Democratic National Convention.
The upscale Burnsley Hotel is about two miles away from the Pepsi Center, where the DNC will be held from Aug. 25-Aug. 27. However, it is not on the list of hotels where delegates are staying.
The last day of the DNC will be held at Invesco Field at Mile High, which is three miles away from the hotel.
Medical examiners had reported a bitter, almond-like smell from Dirie's body after it arrived at the morgue, indicating the possibility of cyanide poisoning.
Authorities have not listed Dirie's occupation or said why he may have had cyanide. White said sodium cyanide is readily available in stores and is the main ingredient in rat poison.
The FBI is also looking into why Dirie was in Denver, how he got here and when he arrived in the United States.
According to the Ottawa Sun, Dirie immigrated to Ottawa years ago and was a member of the city's Somali community. Dirie's father, Abdirahman, who also lives in Ottawa, traveled to Denver when he received the news of the death, said Addirizuk Karod, manager of the Somali Centre for Family Services in Ottawa.
Cyanide is a fast-acting chemical that prevents the body from processing oxygen. It is used in manufacturing, metallurgy and pest extermination. It can also be used as a chemical weapon and was used as a genocidal agent by the Nazis in World War II, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
One could be exposed to cyanide by breathing air, drinking water, eating food or touching soil that contains cyanide, the CDC reported.
Inhaling large doses of cyanide could cause comas, seizures, heart attacks, and even death after a few moments.
The four people who had initially touched the man were decontaminated as a precaution. Five occupied rooms on the fourth floor were evacuated and patrons moved to another floor.
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