Two British citizens a 44-year-old woman and a 45-year-old man, were hospitalized after being exposed to the nerve agent Novichok, just miles away from where ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were attacked in March.
“I have received test results from Porton Down (military research center) which show that the two people have been exposed to the nerve agent Novichok,” Neil Basu, Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer, told reporters on Wednesday.
Britain has accused Russia of poisoning the Skripals with Novichok - a nerve agent developed by the Soviet military during the Cold War - in what is the first known offensive use of such a chemical weapon on European soil since World War Two.
UK counter-terrorism police are now leading the investigation, though Basu said it was unclear how the two people came into contact with the nerve agent or whether they had been specifically targeted.
“I don’t have any intelligence or evidence that they were targeted in any way,” Basu said. “There is nothing in their background to suggest that at all.”
Russia, which is currently hosting the soccer World Cup, has denied any involvement in the March incident and suggested Britain had carried out the attack to stoke anti-Moscow hysteria.
Around 100 counter-terrorism officers are working on the case and police have cordoned off at least five different areas, including a park and a property in Salisbury, as well as a pharmacy and a Baptist church community center in Amesbury.