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Saturday
Apr142018

Trump orders strike on Syria in response to chemical attack

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump ordered a strike on Syria Friday in response to last weekend's chemical weapons attack.

Addressing the nation Friday evening, Trump said the strike was a joint operation with France and the United Kingdom.

"A short time ago, I ordered the United States Armed Forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad," Trump said.

Trump said the "massacre" last weekend in Syria was a "significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use by that very terrible regime."

"The evil and the despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children thrashing in pain and gasping for air. These are not the actions of a man," Trump said, referring to Assad. "They are crimes of a monster instead."

In a later briefing, Defense Secretary James Mattis said the strike demonstrates the international resolve to prevent the use of chemical weapons, saying that he is "confident the Syrian regime conducted a chemical attack on innocent people in the last week."

"Clearly, the Assad regime did not get the message last year," Mattis said, adding that this time the U.S. struck harder.

"We have gone to great lengths to avoid civilian and foreign casualties," he said, adding, "I believe that we sent a very strong message."

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said the strike specifically hit three targets associated with the production and storage of chemical weapons: a scientific research center, a storage center for sarin and its precursor components, and a chemical weapons storage facility and command post.

"Important infrastructure was destroyed," said Dunford.

There were no reports of American losses, Mattis said.

Russia was not notified before launching airstrikes against Syria, Dunford said, adding that no additional strikes are planned.

Social posts out of Syria showed flames lighting up the dark skies. Explosions could be heard as well.

Syrian state media confirmed that the scientific research center in Barzeh, north of Damascus, was targeted in the attack, adding that a number of rockets targeting warehouses belonging to the Syrian army in Homs were allegedly intercepted.

The Russian Defense Ministry held a briefing Saturday in which they said 71 of the 103 missiles fired were intercepted. The Syrian government offered similar claims, though neither provided evidence to back up the claims. Russia also said no one was killed by any of the strikes.

Syrian state media said it was a "cowardly terrorist attack," only done for “America to save face.”

In his remarks, Trump also delivered a message to Iran and Russia.

"To Iran and to Russia, I ask, what kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children? The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep. No nation can succeed in the long run by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants and murderous dictators," Trump said.

"In 2013, President Putin and his government promised the world that they would guarantee the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons," he said of Russia's president, Vladimir Putin. "Assad's recent attack and today's response are the direct result of Russia's failure to keep that promise. Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path or if it will join with civilized nations as a force for stability and peace. Hopefully, someday we'll get along with Russia and maybe even Iran. But maybe not."

Putin responded to the attack against Syria on Saturday, saying "an act of aggression against a sovereign state that is at the forefront of the fight against terrorism has been committed."

"Very quickly we need to put options on the table to see if Russia is willing to engage in a multilateral process," a source within the French presidency said Saturday.

Trump added that the U.S. "does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria."

"We look forward to the day when we can bring our warriors home," he said," adding, "We cannot purge the world of evil or act everywhere there is tyranny. No amount of American blood or treasure can produce lasting peace and security in the Middle East."

Trump concluded, "We pray that God will bring comfort to those suffering in Syria. We pray that God will guide the whole region toward a future of dignity and of peace. And we pray that God will continue to watch over and bless the United States of America."

The strike came as Trump has alluded to military action in Syria all week, even tweeting on Wednesday that Russia should be "ready" because "nice and new and 'smart'" missiles "will be coming." But Thursday, he seemed to walk back that statement, tweeting that military action "could be very soon or not so soon at all."

Trump has reportedly been moved by images of the suspected chemical weapons attack on the Syrian city of Douma outside of Damascus all week, calling it "atrocious."

"We cannot allow atrocities like that. Cannot allow it," Trump told reporters during a Cabinet meeting on Monday, adding that he expected to make a decision on a response in the next 24 to 48 hours.

Images showed victims of the attack foaming at the mouth.

Mattis and Dunford met with the president at the White House on Wednesday to discuss the situation in Syria. There were additional National Security Council meetings on Thursday and Friday.

Trump also spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron and U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May several times by phone this week. The administration said previously that any response Assad's alleged chemical weapons use would be done in consultation with allies.

In a statement Friday night, May called last weekend's chemical attack "pure horror."

"The Syrian regime has a history of using chemical weapons against its own people in the most cruel and abhorrent way," May said. "And a significant body of information, including intelligence, indicates the Syrian regime is responsible for this latest attack."

May held a press conference with reporters early Saturday morning for about 40 minutes, taking dozens of questions from reporters.

"There is no graver decision for a prime minister than to commit our forces to combat. And this is the first time that I've had to do so," May said.

May said the attack was designed specifically to damage chemical weapons facilities and "was not about interfering in a civil war" or "regime change." She said the best option remains a "political solution."

Perhaps in preparation for a strike, Syria repositioned some of its aircraft from bases earlier in the week, a U.S. official told ABC News. A second official said the Syrian military had gone into an increased defensive posture.

Macron, meanwhile, said the response is "limited to the Syrian regime's capabilities to produce and use chemical weapons."

"We cannot tolerate the normalization of the use of chemical weapons, which is a direct threat to the security of the Syrian people and our collective security," he said.

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization said that during the shelling of Douma, "an estimated 500 patients presented to health facilities exhibiting signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals."

"More than 70 people sheltering in basements have reportedly died, with 43 of those deaths related to symptoms consistent with exposure to highly toxic chemicals," the organization said. "Two health facilities were also reportedly affected by these attacks."

On Friday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said analysis done by the U.S., U.K. and France proved the chemical attack. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert also confirmed the use of chemical weapons, but said the U.S. was still “looking into” the “exact kind or the mix” of agent used.

Despite the air strikes on Friday, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said it will continue its fact-finding mission in Syria to "establish facts around the allegations of chemical weapons use in Douma."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Apr142018

US strike in Syria targets military, chemical weapons sites

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump said Friday he had ordered "precision strikes" against Syria's chemical weapons capability in conjunction with France and the United Kingdom.

Included in the targets was a scientific research center in the greater Damascus area, described by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford as a center for research, development, production and testing of chemical weapons.

Two other sites were near the city of Homs -- the site of Syria's primary sarin production facility and a chemical weapons storage facility, which included an important command post.

He said that while the coalition forces had many potential targets from which to choose, the three sites were chosen for their significance to Syria's chemical weapons program as well as their location and layout, in an attempt to minimize risk to innocent civilians.

Perhaps heeding the possibility of U.S. military action, Russian news agency Interfax reported that Russia’s Navy will conduct military exercises off the coast of Syria on Wednesday.

According to Syria state TV, 110 rockets were launched in the attack by the U.S., U.K. and France around 3:55 a.m. Syrian time.

It was always believed that any U.S. military response was unlikely to include significant numbers of ground forces. Trump signaled last month that he wanted a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces in Syria, taking many observers by surprise.

Meanwhile, leading officials from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have requested access to the site of the alleged chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held neighborhood in Syria on Saturday.

The World Health Organization said on Monday that during the shelling of Douma, "an estimated 500 patients presented to health facilities exhibited signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals."

"More than 70 people sheltering in basements have reportedly died, with 43 of those deaths related to symptoms consistent with exposure to highly toxic chemicals," the organization said. "Two health facilities were also reportedly affected by these attacks."

There have been 10 chemical attacks recorded by activists and doctors in Syria this year, including the alleged strike in Douma, according to the Syrian American Medical Society.

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Friday
Apr132018

Life after Lebanon: Syrian refugee ready for new life in New Zealand 

ABC News(BEIRUT) -- In 2014, Rami, a Syrian refugee, was working behind a desk in the back of a garage, helping his father fix tires in Lebanon to raise money for their family.

He'd lost his home and had left his school behind in Syria, where his mother worked as a teacher, to escape the fighting.

ABC News' David Muir met Rami and several other children after visiting the Syrian-Lebanon border. At the time, Rami told Muir that he missed "everything" about home.

Four years later, the "World News Tonight" anchor and team drove through Beirut on Friday in search of Rami.

His father, Mohammad, said Rami, now 16, was outside, playing soccer. Mohammad was still fixing tires. His wife had not yet returned to teaching.

Mohammad said the tire shop was doing better, but his family's situation had gotten worse. He said that before escaping to Lebanon, he'd never worked in an auto-repair shop or fixed tires. He said he used to work for the government and had proudly made and sold chocolates.

Click here for more information on UNICEF USA.

But, he had news: The family's resettlement applications had been approved for New Zealand. They are waiting for final word.

Mohammad said that at night, Rami often looked up images of New Zealand on Google via his laptop.

On the streets of Beirut, there are other child refugees, selling tissues and gum to bring money home to their families.

Sidra, 12, from Aleppo, Syria, told Muir that her home had been destroyed but she still hoped to return one day.

Muir finally caught up with Rami, who showed him the courtyard and building where so many refugees now live.

Rami, who once dreamed of home, now thinks of New Zealand.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Apr132018

Nikki Haley defends time spent deciding on Syria strike

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley Friday defended how long President Donald Trump is taking to decide on a potential military strike in Syria, saying she is “unbelievably proud” of how he has analyzed the situation and “not let anyone rush him into this."

“If you rush decisions like this, you make a mistake," Haley said just before a UN Security Council meeting in New York on Friday.

Afterward, Haley headed back to Washington, D.C., for a national security meeting about Syria at the White House.

Haley highlighted “He [President Trump] has said from the beginning we have to know we’re right, we have to know all the information, we have to know there’s proof and we have to know that we’re taking every precaution necessary should we take action,” she said.

Haley also said unequivocally “there is proof this happened” in regards to the chemical weapons attack.

“Did a chemical weapons attack happen? Yes, the U.S. has analyzed, yes it has happened, the UK has analyzed, yes it has happened, France has analyzed, yes it has happened, three separate analysis all coming back with the same thing, there is proof this happened,” Haley said.

Her remarks contrast what Defense Secretary Mattis told lawmakers Thursday during his testimony in a House hearing. Mattis said the U.S. did not have evidence yet and theOrganisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, OPCW, investigators were not yet, at that point, on the ground.

Friday afternoon, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert echoed Haley's assertion that the U.S. has proof of the chemical attack, but said the U.S. was still "looking into" "the exact kind, or the "mix" of chemical weapon that was used in Syria.

“I’m not going to say which day we absolutely knew there was proof, the attack took place on Saturday, we know for a fact it was a chemical weapon, we know that there are only certain countries, like Syria, that have delivery mechanisms and those types of weapons," Nauert said.

Nauert said the U.S. definitely has proof the Syrian regime carried out the attack in Douma.

At the UN Security Council meeting Friday morning, Haley also made an attempt to justify potential strikes, laying out all the actions the Security Council has attempted to take to punish Assad that have been vetoed or blocked by Russia.

“At some point, you have to do something. At some point, you have to say ‘enough.’ We saw what happened in Salisbury. This is a renewed effort to bring chemical weapons back into the mainstream and we can’t allow it to happen,” she said.

Inside the meeting, Haley took a swipe at her Russian counterpart, Vasily Nebenzya, at the top of her opening remarks.

The pair, who are often seen exchanging warm greetings and air kisses, delivered their remarks back-to-back Friday morning. Nebenzya reiterated Russia’s usual claims that there is no credible confirmation the Douma chemical attack, which has killed at least 40 people according to activists and medics, was carried out by the Assad government and that the United States is ratcheting up “bellicose rhetoric.”

In response to Nebenzya, Haley said “I started to listen to my Russian friend and respond, but instead, I’m in awe, Vasily, of how you say what you say with a straight face. I really, really am.”

Haley continued the line of justification for potential strikes she began at the stakeout camera outside the meeting, saying inside “Our president has not yet made a decision about possible actions in Syria. But should the United States and our allies decide to act in Syria, it will be in defense of a principle on which we all agree, it will be in defense of a bedrock international norm that benefits all nations.”

“It is Russia alone that had agreed to be the guarantor of the removal of all chemical weapons in Syria. If Russia had lived up to its commitment, there would be no chemical weapons in Syria. And we would not be here today,” Haley continued. “Russia can complain all at once about fake news. But no one is buying its lies and cover-ups.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Apr132018

Mother traveled to Mexico to hunt down the man suspected of molesting her son

iStock/Thinkstock(DENVER) -- A mother in Colorado traveled to Mexico earlier this year to track down the man accused of molesting her son after he fled the country while out on bail, according to local reports.

The Coloradoan reported that Fort Collins resident Lydia Lerma traveled to Mexico to find 27-year-old Andrew Vanderwal, who is currently being held in the Larimer County Jail on charges of sexual assault on a child.

In an emotional video posted to Facebook in May 2017 titled "Catch A Pedophile," Lerma discussed her dissatisfaction with law enforcement's efforts in finding Vanderwal after she had just learned through local reports that his car was found abandoned along the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas.

"We were never notified of that," Lerma said in the Facebook video, adding that when she had met with the Larimer County District Attorney's Office in the beginning of 2017, they essentially told her to back off of the investigation.

They "basically told me to cool my jets and let them do their job," she said in the video. "I was doing what any mother would do."

Vanderwal was roommates with Lerma's ex-husband, giving him access to the couple's son, according to the Coloradoan. Vanderwal would pick up Lerma's then 6-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter from school and look after them while their dad was at work, the newspaper reported.

Vanderwal even bought the boy a $250 bike and Nike sneakers, the Coloradoan reported. The boy and Vanderwal were so close, that the boy would call him "Uncle Drew," according to the newspaper.

The case against Vanderwal began in October 2016, when Lerma's ex-husband reported to Fort Collins Police that Vanderwal had allegedly sexually abused their son, the Coloradoan reported.

Three days later, after the boy told police that Vanderwal touched him inappropriately on multiple occasions, Vanderwal allegedly made a confession to the boy's father in a phone call recorded by police, the Coloradoan reported, citing police reports.

Vanderwal was subsequently arrested, but he posted bond the next day with funds provided by his parents, according to the local paper.

More than six months later, Lerma became "really, really angry" with law enforcement after learning of the discovery of Vanderwal's car through the news, rather than from investigators, she said in the Facebook video.

"I had full confidence that they were going to track him down and find him and arrest him," she said in the video. "It didn't happen."

Upon the realization that he may not be caught, Lerma said on Facebook that she made it her personal mission to find him.

"If I have to head to Mexico myself and find this man, I will do it," she said in the video.

And that's what she did.

Lerma told ABC Denver affiliate KMGH-TV on Thursday that she posted the May 2017 video to enlist the public's help, and her crusade in locating the suspect began.

"At that point, I regularly posted public pleas to help find him -- to circulate his image," she told KMGH-TV. "I contacted all kinds of organizations. I contacted news sources, just to keep this in front of the public and to just have that constant awareness that he was on the run."

On Jan. 4, she was contacted on social media by someone in Mexico and given "definitive information to his whereabouts," she said to KMGH-TV.

Lerma told the station she immediately contacted the FBI, but when Vanderwal still hadn't been arrested four weeks later, she said she had "had enough."

"I understand the FBI had to work with Mexican authorities to make the arrest, but to me, it felt like it was taking too long, and I was in fear that he would flee again," she told KMGH-TV.

Lerma then decided to take matters into her own hand, she told KMGH-TV.

At the end of January, she flew down to Mexico with the initial goal to convince Mexican authorities to make the arrest. She even had the arrest warrant translated into Spanish and was ready to hand over all of the information she had on Vanderwal, she told the station.

But, she said she "backed off" after the FBI requested that she not approach local authorities and decided to keep tabs on Vanderwal herself, staying in constant communication with the FBI the entire time, she said to KMGH-TV.

"I put eyes on him. I photographed him. We followed him," she told the station. "We found out the neighborhood he lived in. We kind of learned his routine in that area."

By Feb. 19, Vanderwal was in police custody, Lerma told KMGH-TV.

Vanderwal appeared in court Thursday afternoon and is being held on $750,000 bond, jail records show. If he is released, he will be required to wear a GPS tracking device, the Coloradoan reported.

His attorney, Troy Krenning, declined to comment on the case but described Lerma's public statements as a "whirlwind self-promoting media tour."

"Mr. Vanderwal enjoys a constitutional right to be presumed innocent and looks forward to having the case evaluated by a jury, not a vigilante gunslinger like Ms. Lerma," Krenning said in a statement to ABC News via email.

Vanderwal has not entered a plea, Krenning said. More charges against him are pending, the Coloradoan reported, citing police.

The FBI and the Larimer County District Attorney's Office did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

A spokeswoman for the Fort Collins Police Services declined to comment on Vanderwal's case "due to ongoing prosecution and the sensitive nature of these cases."

Despite enduring what is alleged to be such a traumatic ordeal, Lerma told KMGH-TV that her son is doing "amazingly well." He plays hockey, baseball and has even become friends with other survivors of Vanderwal's alleged abuse, Lerma told the station.

"My son is the bravest young boy you could ever imagine," she told KMGH-TV.

Lerma said during the interview that she is "really grateful" for the media's coverage in the case, adding that she hopes her family's story encourages other survivors of sexual assault to come forward.

"I just hope that other victims have the courage to come forward, and I want them to know they’ve done nothing wrong," she told KMGH-TV. "It’s not their fault. They have nothing to be ashamed of."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Apr132018

Young boy pays tribute to youth hockey victims in heartwarming video

@v_heaney16 via Storyful(TORONTO) -- Video of a young boy's tribute to victims of a deadly bus crash carrying youth hockey players in Canada is warming hearts all over the internet.

Victoria Heaney's family left a hockey stick on their front porch to pay tribute to members of the Humboldt Broncos youth hockey team who died when a tractor-trailer smashed into the team's charter bus on Friday, April 6.

Footage shows Heaney's younger brother returning home from school and spotting the hockey stick on his front porch. The young boy picks up the stick and plays around with it, before returning it to its original resting place. As he rests the hockey stick down, he kisses it to remember the victims of the crash.

Heaney tweeted a video of the interaction, urging people to watch to the end, calling her little brother's actions "heartbreaking."

Since the video was posted on Wednesday, it has been retweeted over 8,300 times as of this afternoon.

A GoFundMe Page set up to help the families of the victims of the crash has raised over $11 million, far surpassing its initial goal of $4 million.

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Friday
Apr132018

Prince Philip, 96, gives a wave as he leaves London hospital after hip surgery

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, left the hospital today after a 10-day stay following his hip replacement surgery.

The 96-year-old waved to well wishers as he left King Edward VII’s Hospital in London in a Range Rover.

Philip underwent the planned surgery on April 4 to install a prosthetic hip to alleviate pain.

“His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh left King Edward VII’s Hospital at midday today, following a hip replacement operation last week," Buckingham Palace said in a statement. "The Duke will continue his recovery at Windsor.”

The statement continued, "His Royal Highness would like to convey his appreciation for the messages of good wishes he has received.”

Philip's daughter, Princess Anne, visited her father Thursday and said he was “on good form” after a 50-minute visit.

Queen Elizabeth, 91, speaking with well-wishers at an engagement in Windsor, said Philip was “getting on very well."

Philip had missed several events due to pain before electing to undergo the surgery.

He was absent from the royal family's Easter service attended by Queen Elizabeth and other royals, and also missed the annual Maundy Service with Queen Elizabeth at St. George's Chapel just a few days before Easter.

Philip, who turns 97 in June, was hoping to join the monarch at the same venue where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will hold their wedding next month.

Philip also withdrew in March from a planned appearance with his son, Prince Andrew, the duke of York, at Windsor Castle to mark Andrew's role as colonel of the Grenadier Guards.

Andrew is taking over the role from Philip, who retired from royal duties last summer but still makes appearances with the royal family.



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Friday
Apr132018

Prince Harry, Meghan Markle reveal their wedding photographer

Chris Jackson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have named the photographer who will document their upcoming wedding.

Harry, 33, and Markle, 36, selected Alexi Lubomirski to be the official photographer at their wedding on May 19, Kensington Palace announced today.

Lubomirski will take the official photographs at Windsor Castle following Harry and Markle's wedding at St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle.

Lubomirski is a renowned portrait and fashion photographer who photographed Harry and Markle's engagement photos at Frogmore House, Windsor, that were released by Kensington Palace in December.

"I could not be more thrilled or honored to photograph this historic occasion," Lubomirski said in a statement. "Having taken Prince Harry and Ms. Markle's engagement photos, it brings me such joy to be able to witness again, the next chapter in this wonderful love story."

The engagement photos -- taken at the same location where Prince Charles will host an intimate evening wedding reception for Harry and Markle -- captured the couple embracing each other and walking hand-in-hand.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Apr122018

Preserving some of the childhood for Syria's 'lost generation' of children

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The children inside Syria and the children who've escaped are still suffering, yet aid groups say they continue to try desperately to give some of the children a bit of their lives back.

Nearly four years ago, ABC News anchor David Muir and "World News Tonight" arrived at the Syrian-Lebanon border, boarding the back of a pickup truck and heading to the fields, where children worked.

Even after seven hours of hard labor, some of those children then attended class in a tiny school run by UNICEF.

At the time, UNICEF's Sarah Shouman said that although she and others were trying to save at least part of the students' childhood, there was a fear that the children had become the lost generation.

"This is the big fear with everyone, including with UNICEF -- the fear of the lost generation," Shouman told Muir. "It exceeds boundaries. It's not only in Lebanon. It's in Syria. It's in Jordan. It's in Iraq."

Now, four years later, many of those same children remain in refugee camps. UNICEF said there are more than 300 schools in Lebanon, teaching children from Syria.

According to UNICEF, as of March 8, there were 546,536 registered Syrian refugee children in Lebanon. The organization estimates that around 180,000 Syrian refugee children are currently out of school.

With UNICEF support, the 2017 to 2018 school year witnessed an increase in student enrollment rates of 14 percent among non-Lebanese children -- Syrian and Palestinian refugees.

And, in 2017, UNICEF and partners completed the rehabilitation of 123 schools, benefiting more than 43,000 children a year.

Yet, just last weekend, photographs and footage were released of a suspected chemical attack in the city of Douma, Syria, that killed and injured civilians, including children.

Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children, said the organization is "heartbroken and horrified" by what children are facing in parts of Syria.

"These children are now trapped in the eighth year of a war whose tactics are growing increasingly inhumane. After years of living under siege and dodging bullets and bombs, this past weekend children were once again killed and injured in indiscriminate attacks," she said.

Miles said Save the Children was working through local partners to help, delivering food and hygiene kits to families who remain in Eastern Ghouta, and providing those who have fled with household items, food and cash grants.

"We are also building upon our existing programs in the country, including running medical clinics, schools, livelihood projects and a maternity clinic," she said.

UNICEF said that $14 could provide exercise books and pencils for children, including 40 exercise books and 40 slates for children to practice writing and arithmetic and a box of 80 pencils; $18 could provide schoolbags to five children; and $200 could provide a school box for 40 children.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Apr122018

Chemical weapons watchdog backs UK findings on nerve agent used in Salisbury attack

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The international monitoring agency on chemical weapons has backed the British government's assessment on the poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter by means of a nerve agent in an attack in March.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) released a report on the suspected nerve agent attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the English city of Salisbury on March 4.

While the OPCW did not specifically name the chemical involved, its report supported British findings.

The U.K. investigation by chemical weapons experts at the nearby military research center of Porton Down, along with evidence collected by British security services, found the chemical used in the attack was a type of Soviet-era nerve agent called a Novichok agent.

British assessments have concluded the Russian state was responsible for the attack -- a charge that Russia fiercely denies.

Boris Johnson, the British foreign secretary, said that the OPCW report vindicated the British investigation that lays blame with the Russian state.

"There can be no doubt what was used and there remains no alternative explanation about who was responsible -- only Russia has the means, motive and record," Johnson said.

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry hit back, accusing the U.K. of spreading false information.

“There are no grounds to believe that all this is not a continuation of the crude provocation against the Russian Federation by the security services of Britain," said spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

The Skripals were found slumped on a park bench in the city center, unconscious. Yulia was discharged from Salisbury District Hospital this Monday, while her father is in a stable condition and recovering slowly.

It is not clear whether he has regained consciousness, but until last Friday, he was described by the hospital treating him as being in a "critical" condition since the day of the attack.

The team from the OPCW arrived in the U.K. on March 19 to begin a separate investigation at the invitation of the British government.

As part of their examination into the incident, the team tested samples of the chemical traces and blood samples from the Skripals, who were both receiving treatment in hospital at the time.

Following the OPCW report published Thursday, the U.K. called for a United Nations Security Council meeting over the results, which will most likely be set for next week.

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