Traces of nerve agent found in ex-spy poisoning: UK media

LONDON (AP) – British media reported yesterday that traces of the nerve agent used to attack a Russian ex-spy and his daughter have been found in Salisbury where the two were poisoned.

BBC said its sources said traces were found at a restaurant where Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia reportedly ate before falling critically ill. BBC also reported that up to 500 people who dined at the restaurant were told to wash their possessions as a precaution. Sky News said traces were found in several locations.

But UK officials had not publicly confirmed that any trace of the nerve agent was found and said the risk to the public remains low. Officials had not said what type of nerve agent was used.

A large-scale police investigation is underway in Salisbury as forensics experts wearing protective gear search for clues. Among the sites they are searching are the Zizzi restaurant, which is closed to the public, and the gravesites where Skripal’s wife and son are buried.

Skripal’s house was also extensively searched for clues and traces of the nerve agent.

Military personnel in gas masks prepare to remove an ambulance from the South Western Ambulance Service station in Harnham, near Salisbury, England, March 10. – AP

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Saturday evening it was still “too early” to determine who is to blame for the attack.

Senior government officials vowed to respond robustly if the Russian government is found to be responsible.

Rudd said more than 250 counterterrorism officers are on the scene evaluating more than 240 pieces of evidence and interviewing about 200 witnesses.

They are backed by roughly 180 military personnel providing logistical support, including the removal of ambulances feared to possibly be contaminated by the nerve agent.

Police are looking for clues to what sickened Skripal, 66, a Russian ex-military intelligence specialist who in 2006 was convicted in Russia of spying for Britain, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia.

Skripal was imprisoned inside Russia until he was freed in a 2010 spy swap and settled in England. He had stayed out of the public eye since then.

The father and daughter were found unconscious March 4 on a bench in Salisbury.