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UK police say couple in Wiltshire contaminated with same substance as Skripals

Wednesday - 04/07/2018 18:14
British authorities are saying that the couple that is currently in critical condition in Salisbury hospital was exposed to the same substance as Sergei Skripal and his daughter in March.
Police officers stand next to a section of a cordoned off playing field near Amesbury Baptist Church. © Henry Nicholls / Reuters
Police officers stand next to a section of a cordoned off playing field near Amesbury Baptist Church. © Henry Nicholls / Reuters

UK counter-terrorism chief Neil Basu said that the substance was 'Novichok,' the same one that the UK claims the Skripals were poisoned with. He said that police did not know how it was transmitted. The affected people are both British and in their mid-40s, and Basu said there was nothing in the pair's background to suggest they would be a target, yet their connection to the Skripal case is being investigated.

Earlier, Wiltshire Police declared a “major incident” in the town of Amesbury, around 12 kilometers from Salisbury, over a man and woman, both British in their 40s, being hospitalized after “suspected exposure to an unknown substance.”

The pair was discovered unconscious in a property in Muggleton Road on Saturday, but Wiltshire Police did not report the incident until Wednesday. The UK's chief medical officer said during the press conference on Wednesday that the risk to the general public from the Wiltshire case was low.

"This evening I’ve received test result from Porton Down [laboratory] that show that the two people have been exposed to the nerve agent ‘Novichok,'” Neil Basu said, adding that it has been identified as “the same nerve agent that contaminated Yulia and Sergey Skripal.”

Basu, who was recently appointed as Head of Counter Terrorism, Assistant Commissioner of Specialist Operations (ACSO), has said that some 100 detectives of the counter-terrorism force have been scrambled for a joint investigation with local police.

Police have yet to determine if there is any connection between the March poisoning and the incident in Amesbury, Basu said, noting that “the possibility that these two investigations might be linked is clearly a line of enquiry for us.”

It is not known if the substance that the British pair was exposed to “was from the same batch” that the Skripals were allegedly poisoned with, Basu stressed.

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid has announced he will preside over a meeting of the government's emergency committee on Thursday. He praised the "tireless professionalism" of Salisbury Hospital staff and said the new incident "follows the reckless and barbaric attack which took place in Salisbury." Javid asked that the police be "given space" to establish the circumstances of the new incident.

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