Britain’s top ministers to meet on mysterious illness of Russian double agent

Salisbury Cathedral, which former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter were found unconscious after they had been exposed to an unknown substance, is seen through a door archway at dusk in Salisbury. (Reuters)
Updated 07 March 2018
0

Britain’s top ministers to meet on mysterious illness of Russian double agent

SALISBURY, England: British investigators will update an emergency response committee of senior ministers on Wednesday about the mystery illness that struck down a former Russian double agent and his daughter.
Sergei Skripal, once a colonel in Russia’s GRU military intelligence service, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, were found slumped unconscious on a bench outside a shopping center in the southern English city of Salisbury on Sunday afternoon.
Police said they had been exposed to an unknown substance. More than two days later, both are critically ill in intensive care.
Counter-terrorism police are now leading the investigation and Britain’s military research laboratory at Porton Down is trying to identify the substance which caused Skripal, 66, and his daughter to fall ill.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd will chair the emergency response meeting.
Britain has cautioned Russia that if the Kremlin was behind any poisoning then there will be grave consequences and British ministers have drawn parallels with the 2006 murder of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko who was killed with radioactive polonium-210 in London.
A previous British inquiry said President Vladimir Putin probably approved the murder Litvinenko who died after drinking green tea laced with the rare and very potent radioactive isotope at London’s Millennium Hotel.
Russia, which denied any involvement in the death of Litvinenko, has dismissed claims that it may have had a hand in the poisoning of Skripal.
Moscow says anti-Russian hysteria is being whipped up without any evidence to show its involvement in the Skripal case. Russia holds a presidential election on March 18, which polls show Vladimir Putin should comfortably win.
Skripal, who passed the identity of dozens of spies to the MI6 foreign intelligence agency, was given refuge in Britain after being exchanged in 2010 for Russian spies caught in the West as part of a Cold War-style spy swap at Vienna airport.
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested Skripal in 2004 on suspicion of betraying dozens of Russian agents to British intelligence. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2006 after a secret trial.


At least 11 wounded in Somalia Al-Shabab claimed attack

Updated 23 March 2019
0

At least 11 wounded in Somalia Al-Shabab claimed attack

  • Authorities have not said if there are any deaths in the attack
  • The extremist group is fighting against foreign influences which they see as heretic

MOGADISHU: At least 11 people were wounded when gunmen set off explosions and stormed government ministries in Somalia’s capital Saturday in an attack claimed by the Al-Shabab extremist group, police said.
“There can be others inside but we have so far collected eleven people wounded in the attack,” said Abdukadir Abdirahman Adan, director of the Aamin ambulance service in the capital Mogadishu.
Police say the assault began when two explosions were set off near the ministries of public works and labor.
Gunmen entered the buildings following the blasts.
“The security forces rescued many of the staff from the buildings and they are still engaging some gunmen who managed to enter the building after the blast,” said security commander Ahmed Adan.
It remained unclear if there were any deaths in the attack.
The attack was claimed by the Al-Shabab extremist group, which is fighting an armed insurrection in Somalia against what it sees as heretic and foreign influence.
Attacks that use a combination of bombs and gunmen have become a hallmark of the insurgents.
Earlier this month, at least 20 people died in an attack in Mogadishu which saw Al-Shabab extremists battling security forces for nearly 24 hours.
The group also claimed responsibility for a March 7 car bombing near a restaurant in the capital that killed four people.