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British PM Theresa May has announced that the UK will expel 23 Russian diplomats after Moscow refused to explain how a Russian-made nerve agent was used on former spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.

She said the diplomats, who have a week to leave, were identified as “undeclared intelligence officers”.

Theresa May also revoked an invitation to Russia’s foreign minister, and said the Royal Family would not attend the FIFA World Cup in Russia later this year.

Moscow denies attempted murder and says it will respond appropriately.

Addressing the UN Security Council, the UK said Russia had used “a weapon so horrific that it is banned in war”.

UK’s deputy UN ambassador, Jonathan Allen, accused Russia of breaking its obligations under the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

He said he had heard the threats from Russia but that the UK would not be deterred.

Image source Wikipedia

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In response Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, denied his country’s involvement in the attack and demanded “material proof” from Britain to support its charge.

The US ambassador Nikki Haley said Washington stood in “absolute solidarity” with the UK, citing the “special relationship” between the two countries.

The mass expulsion is the largest since 31 were ordered out in 1985 after double agent Oleg Gordievsky defected.

Former spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, 33, remain critically ill in hospital after being found slumped on a bench on March 4.

Russia refused to meet Theresa May’s midnight deadline to co-operate in the case, prompting her to announce a series of measures intended to send a “clear message” to Russia: expelling 23 diplomats; increasing checks on private flights, customs and freight; freezing Russian state assets where there is evidence they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents; ministers and the Royal Family boycotting the FIFA World Cup in Russia later this year; suspending all planned high-level bilateral contacts between the UK and Russia and planning to consider new laws to increase defenses against “hostile state activity”.


France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls has warned that his country could face chemical or biological attack from terror groups, as lawmakers debate the state of emergency extension following last week’s attacks in Paris.

Belgian police have meanwhile raided properties linked to suspected Paris attackers Bilal Hadfi and Salah Abdeslam.

Seven raids took place in and around Brussels, and one person was detained, Belgian media reported.

November 13 attacks in Paris killed 129 people.

PM Manuel Valls was addressing France’s lower house of parliament before its deputies voted to extend the state of emergency by three months.

He told lawmakers that “terrorism hit France, not because of what it is doing in Iraq and Syria … but for what it is”.

“What is new are the ways of operating; the ways of attacking and killing are evolving all the time,” Manuel Valls said.Manuel Valls French parliament Paris attacks

“The macabre imagination of those giving the orders is unlimited. Assault rifles, beheadings, suicide bombers, knives or all of these at once.”

Manuel Valls also called for Europe to adopt measures on sharing information about airline passengers as a way of protecting collective security.

French police officers will be allowed to carry their weapons while off duty as long as they wear an armband to identify them, under a police directive issued to coincide with the state of emergency.

Paris police have extended their ban on gatherings and demonstrations until midnight on November 22, although they will be allowed at the various sites attacked on November 13.

It remains unclear whether the suspected ringleader of the attacks was killed in yesterday’s raid in Paris.

French authorities say the raid on a flat in the northern suburb of Saint-Denis foiled another attack, reportedly planned for the La Defense business quarter of western Paris.

Eight people were arrested in the raid, in which police fired over 5,000 rounds of ammunition, but those arrested did not include Abdelhamid Abaaoud – suspected of being the man who organized the Paris attacks.

At least two people were killed in the raid, one of them a woman who blew herself up with a suicide vest.

She is widely reported to be Hasna Aitboulachen, a cousin of Abdelhamid Abaaoud.

Further attacks by ISIS were likely elsewhere in Europe, according to the head of the EU’s law enforcement agency Europol.

Syria’s government and opposition forces have accused each other of using poison gas in an attack on Kafr Zita village on Friday.

State TV said the jihadist Nusra Front group launched the attack on Kafr Zita in Hama province, killing two people and injuring dozens of others.

Meanwhile opposition groups quoted doctors as saying that an attack by regime planes led to suffocation and poisoning.

There was no independent verification of either of the claims.

Syria’s government and opposition forces have accused each other of using poison gas in an attack on Kafr Zita village on Friday

Syria’s government and opposition forces have accused each other of using poison gas in an attack on Kafr Zita village on Friday

“Regime planes bombed Kafr Zita with explosive barrels that produced thick smoke and odors and led to cases of suffocation and poisoning,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

State-run television blamed the attack on the Nusra Front and said they had information that the jihadist group was planning to attack two more towns.

“There is information that the terrorist Nusra Front released toxic chlorine… leading to the death of two people and causing more than 100 people to suffer from suffocation,” it said.

In a separate incident, the Al-Arabiya TV news network also reported on Friday that there were a number of cases of suffocation in Harasta, a northeastern suburb of Damascus.

An opposition group was quoted by the news channel as saying the incident came “after the regime bombarded it with poisonous gas.”

In August last year, a chemical attack near Damascus killed hundreds of people.

Syria agreed under threat of US military action to turn over its chemical weapons stockpile for destruction.

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