Russian spy and his daughter were attacked with nerve agent in UK, reports say

Investigators believe a nerve agent was used to attack a former Russian spy and his daughter who were found slumped on a public bench in southern England.

The Guardian quotes sources close to the investigation, saying they would not discuss exactly which nerve agents were used, but the best known are VX and sarin.

Counter-terrorism police are investigating the case, which has left Sergei Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, in critical condition.

Amid speculation about who is behind the suspected poisoning, Moscow said the case was being used to fuel an "anti-Russian campaign" and further strain ties with Britain.

Russia denies any involvement in the incident which left Sergei Skripal and his daughter critically ill. Source: Breakfast

Britain's Home Secretary, the minister responsible for public safety, called a meeting today NZT of the government's emergency committee, where senior officials will consider their response.

While police say they are keeping an open mind about the case, it has reminded Britain of the 2006 poisoning of former spy Alexander Litvinenko, which was blamed on the Russian state.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told lawmakers yesterday that the government would act - possibly downgrading England's participation in this year's World Cup in Russia - if Moscow is shown to have been involved in the Skripal case.

Johnson warned British officials may not take part in the sport event "in the normal way," but did not elaborate.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the allegations were intended to "further exacerbate relations between our countries."

"What happened to Skripal has been immediately used to further incite anti-Russian campaign in Western media," ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

Skripal, a former colonel in Russia's GRU military intelligence service, was convicted in 2006 of spying for Britain and imprisoned.

He was freed in 2010 as part of a widely publicized spy swap in which the US agreed to hand over 10 members of a Russian sleeper cell found operating in America in return for four Russians convicted of spying for the West.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia are critically ill after "suspected exposure to an unknown substance". Source: 1 NEWS


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Two tiger sharks killed after Queensland shark attacks

Queensland fisheries authorities have caught and killed two tiger sharks, but it is unclear if they are responsible for separate attacks on a woman and a little girl in the Whitsundays.

Three baited hooks were dropped in the area on Friday, with Fisheries Queensland officials catching and killing a two-metre tiger shark and a 3.3-metre tiger shark today.

"It is unclear if they were responsible for injuries caused to two swimmers this week," Fisheries Queensland said in a statement.

The state government insists killing the sharks is in the interest of public safety, despite also saying it would be impossible to determine whether they were the sharks responsible.

The sharks will be cut open and measured before being dumped at sea.

12-year-old Hannah Papps was holidaying from Melbourne with her father and sister when she received a life-threatening wound to her right leg on Thursday while swimming in shallow water in Cid Harbour.

Her attack came after Tasmanian Justine Barwick, 46, was bitten on her left thigh while snorkelling in the same area less than 24 hours earlier.

Both victims have now been transferred to hospitals in Brisbane where Hannah is in a critical but stable condition and Ms Barwick was last known to be stable.

"We would like to thank everyone who has helped and cared for Hannah, including the police, emergency services and the hospital teams," her family said in a statement on Friday.

"We ask that everyone, including the media, please respect our family's privacy during this very difficult time so we can focus our energies on Hannah's recovery."

It is the first time baited hooks have been used in the popular Whitsundays holiday destination, where the tourism industry is still recovering following Cyclone Debbie in 2017.

The girl is Hannah Papps, who lives in Melbourne with her New Zealand parents. Source: 1 NEWS


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At least eight members of elite Revolutionary guard dead after gunmen attack military parade in Iran

Gunmen attacked a military parade in the southwest Iranian city of Ahvaz today, killing at least 8 members of the elite Revolutionary Guard and wounding 20 people, state media said.

The state-run IRNA news agency reported that the wounded included a woman and a child but did not elaborate.

Earlier reports described the assailants as "Takfiri," a term previously used to describe the Islamic State group.

The semi-official Fars news agency, which is close to the elite Revolutionary Guard, said two gunmen on a motorcycle wearing khaki uniforms carried out the attack.

State television showed images of the immediate aftermath. In it, paramedics could be seen helping someone in military fatigues laying on the ground.

Other armed security personnel shouted at each other in front of what appeared to be a viewing stand for the parade.

The semi-official ISNA news agency published photographs of the attack's aftermath, with bloodied troops in dress uniforms helping each other walk away. The attack struck on Ahvaz's Quds, or Jerusalem, Boulevard.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Today’s attack comes after a coordinated June 7, 2017 Islamic State group assault on parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran.

That attack had at that point been the only one by the Sunni extremists inside of Shiite Iran, which has been deeply involved in the wars in Iraq and Syria where the militants once held vast territory.

At least 18 people were killed and more than 50 wounded in the 2017 attack that saw gunmen carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles and explosives storm the parliament complex where a legislative session had been in progress, starting an hours-long siege.

Meanwhile, gunmen and suicide bombers also struck outside Khomeini's mausoleum on Tehran's southern outskirts.

Khomeini led the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the Western-backed shah to become Iran's first supreme leader until his death in 1989.

Ahvaz is the capital of Iran's oil-rich Khuzestan province. The province in the past has seen Arab separatists attack oil pipelines.

The assault shocked Tehran, which largely has avoided militant attacks in the decades after the tumult surrounding the Islamic Revolution.

Fighter generic. Source: Thinkstock

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Student pilot charged after allegedly trying to steal passenger plane in the US

A 22-year-old student pilot suspected of boarding a vacant passenger plane at a central Florida airport yesterday has been charged with criminal attempt to steal an airplane, officials said.

The Joint Terrorism Task Force is investigating and trying to determine a motive in the case, according to Orlando-Melbourne International Airport spokeswoman Lori Booker.

She told news outlets the student pilot, identified as Florida Institute of Technology student Nishal Sankat, also faces a visa violation and criminal trespassing charges.

Early yesterday, a man drove to the curb outside the airport, left his car running, hopped a fence and boarded an Airbus 321 American Airlines aircraft sitting in a maintenance facility, Booker said.

An avionics technician was in the plane's galley when he saw a shadow, Booker said.

"He turned around and said, 'Who are you? Show me your badge," Booker told news outlets. She said the technician was among airport workers she dubbed heroes.

He grabbed the man and, with help from another technician, they got him off the plane. Booker said that while one technician held the man down, the other called Melbourne airport police.

The man broke free and ran along the airfield before police took him into custody about two minutes later.

After the man was arrested, officials conducted a sweep of the airfield before re-opening the airport.

All employees and passengers were removed from the terminal during the incident, which caused two flight delays and interrupted airport operations for about five hours.

Police searched the student pilot's car with a robotic arm to make sure no explosives were inside, Booker said. The car was then towed from the airport.

The airport returned to normal operations after five hours.

Booker said the student pilot is from Trinidad and entered the United States through Canada. The spokeswoman said he has a Florida driver's licence.

The man had jumped the fence and made it to the Airbus' flight deck. Source: US ABC


Queensland shark bite victims remain in hospital

A woman and a little girl bitten by a shark at the same location but in separate attacks in Queensland remain in hospital.

Hannah Papps, who lives in Melbourne with her Kiwi parents, was holidaying with her father and sister when she received a life-threatening wound to her right leg on Thursday while swimming in shallow water in Cid Harbour.

Her attack came after Tasmanian mother of two, Justine Barwick, 46, was bitten on her left thigh while snorkelling in the same area less than 24 hours earlier.

Both have now been transferred to hospitals in Brisbane where the 12-year-old is in a critical but stable condition and Ms Barwick was last known to be stable.

"We would like to thank everyone who has helped and cared for Hannah, including the police, emergency services and the hospital teams," her family said in a statement on Friday.

“We ask that everyone, including the media, please respect our family's privacy during this very difficult time so we can focus our energies on Hannah's recovery.”

Three baited hooks set by the Fisheries Department in the harbour on Friday will remain in place for at least a week as authorities try to catch a shark or sharks responsible.

It is the first-time baited hooks have been used in the popular Whitsundays holiday destination, where the tourism industry is still recovering following Cyclone Debbie in 2017.

The girl is Hannah Papps, who lives in Melbourne with her New Zealand parents. Source: 1 NEWS


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