Donald Trump postpones second meeting with Vladimir Putin until Russia investigation concludes

Donald Trump on Wednesday announced he was calling off a second summit with Vladimir Putin until an investigation into Russian collusion was completed.

The US president was planning to host the Russian leader at the White House in the Autumn, a decision that was met with surprise by his own intelligence officials when it was announced last week.

The two leaders held their first one to one meeting in Helsinki earlier this month, after which Mr Trump was heavily criticised for failing to publicly condemn the Russian president for Kremlin interference in the US election.

The probe, which is being headed up by former FBI director Robert Mueller, is investigating potential links between the Trump campaign and Russian actors.

Last week Mr Mueller’s team charged 13 Russian individuals and companies for attempting to sway the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

Mr Trump and his allies claim the investigation is motivated by political bias and often refer to it as a "witch hunt".

On Wednesday John Bolton, Mr Trump’s national security adviser, said: "The President believes that the next bilateral meeting with President Putin should take place after the Russia witch hunt is over, so we’ve agreed that it will be after the first of the year”.

It follows suggestions that Mr Putin did not think the time was right to hold a second meeting with Mr Trump.

Yuri Ushakov, a top Kremlin aide, told reporters there are other potential venues for the two world leaders to meet in the near future, such as a meeting with G20 leaders in Argentina set for November.

"After the [Helsinki] summit you know what kind of atmosphere there is around its outcome," Mr Ushakov said.

"I think it would be wise to let the dust settle and then we can discuss all these questions in a business-like way. But not now."

In a further sign of tense relations between Washington and Moscow, the US government on Wednesday said it would not accept Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.

"In concert with allies, partners, and the international community, the United States rejects Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea and pledges to maintain this policy until Ukraine’s territorial integrity is restored," Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, said.

Mr Pompeo said the US viewed Russia’s claims of sovereignty over the seized territory as "a contravention of international law."

During an appearance before the US Congress, Mr Pompeo emphasised the measures the US had taken to tackle Russian interference in elections, including the expulsion of 60 spies.

In response to the announcement on Crimea, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said "we know the worth of such declarations".

Separately, Mr Trump said he was hopeful of working out a deal with the European Union and staving off a full-blown trade war.

Amid suggestions the US president is determined to impose damaging duties on car imports, top European officials warned they would respond by putting tariffs on $20 billion of American goods, including agricultural, high-tech products and machinery.

But as he welcomed Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, at the White House, Mr Trump said: "Hopefully, we can work something out. We expect something very positive to take place.

"We just want it to be a level playing field for our farmers, for our manufacturers, for everybody. And, we also want a big beneficiary, frankly, to be the European Union."

Mr Trump added: "You could call it retaliation, but we just want reciprocal (trade). With the EU, and others, it has to be reciprocal at minimum."

The president praised Mr Juncker as a "tough and smart man" but he said the US had lost hundreds of billions of dollars to the EU in recent years.

Mr Juncker, who has previously called Mr Trump’s trade policies "stupid," said the US and EU were "close partners and allies, not enemies".

He added: "We represent half of the world’s trade. We have to work together. We have to talk to each other, not at one another, and that’s what we do today. We have to focus on reducing tariffs not increasing them, that’s our job."

Despite the warm words it was notable that there was no customary public handshake between the two men. Hours before the meeting Cecilia Malmstrom, the European trade commissioner, said the EU was preparing its response in the event of car tariffs. She said: "We hope that it doesn’t come to that, and that we can find a solution. If not, the EU Commission is preparing a rather long list of many American goods. It would be around $20 billion."

Mr Trump has repeatedly expressed frustration that the EU imposes a 10 per cent tariff on imported US cars, while the US tariff on European cars is only 2.5 per cent.

According to his own advisers the US president has become increasingly determined in recent days to escalate his trade conflict with the EU.

He wants to impose a blanket 25 per cent tariff on nearly $200 billion of foreign cars, and car parts, entering the US before the end of the year.

Mr Trump has said America is being "ripped off" and vowed to show "no weakness" in negotiations.

However, he faced criticism from Republicans in Congress who accused him of abandoning free trade principles and risking damage to the US economy.

Paul Ryan, the Republican House Speaker, said: "Tariffs are not the right answer. I think tariffs are taxes. There are better tools to get them to play fairly."

Seeking to quell the dissent within his own party Mr Trump wrote on Twitter: "Every time I see a weak politician asking to stop Trade talks or the use of Tariffs to counter unfair Tariffs, I wonder, what can they be thinking?

"When you have people snipping at your heels during a negotiation, it will only take longer to make a deal, and the deal will never be as good as it could have been with unity. Negotiations are going really well, be cool. The end result will be worth it!"

Mr Juncker reportedly planned to put forward two ideas in his meeting with Mr Trump. One involved a "plurilateral” deal, reducing tariffs among all major car exporters including Japan and South Korea.  A second proposal involved a limited trade deal between the US and EU to get rid of tariffs on industrial goods including cars.

Italy re-opens ports to migrant boats as it scorns EU’s €6,000 per refugee offer

Italy has re-opened its ports to migrant boats until the European Union reaches a deal on how to redistribute the new arrivals, as its government scorned the EU’s latest offer to pay governments €6,000 for each asylum seeker taken in. 

Italy, which has borne the brunt of the migration crisis alongside Greece, closed its ports to migrant boats last month. However, it will now accept the asylum seekers temporarily, giving the EU five weeks to reach a deal before it shuts the borders again. 

Speaking on Monday, Foreign Minister Moavero Milanesi said the ports would remain open until a deal was reached to stop "all rescued people from landing in one country". 

But on Tuesday Italy’s Deputy Prime…

Donald Trump’s lawyer ‘secretly recorded discussion about paying Playboy model’

Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, secretly taped a discussion with him about payments to a former Playboy model who says she had an affair with the US president, and the tape is now in FBI hands, The New York Times reported Friday.

The FBI seized the recording earlier this year during a raid on Mr Cohen’s office, the newspaper said in a bombshell revelation, quoting lawyers and others familiar with the recording.

Mr Cohen, who no longer represents the president, is being investigated over payments made to women to hush up embarrassing news stories about Mr Trump ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

FBI agents seized computers, phones and documents in an April raid on the lawyer’s home and office as part of an ongoing investigation into his business dealings, including any information on payments made in 2016 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Ms McDougal says she had an affair with Mr Trump in 2006, just months after his wife Melania gave birth to their son Barron, a claim the president has denied. 

Prosecutors want to know whether the payments constituted undeclared election spending, which would violate US federal campaign finance laws. 

Any recordings of conversations between Mr Trump and his lawyer about the payments will be crucial to their investigation.

Mr Cohen first faced public scrutiny after admitting he paid porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims she had an affair with Donald Trump, $130,000 (£95,000) just weeks before the US presidential election.

US media has previously reported that Mr Cohen had a proclivity to record his clients, but the news that federal investigators are in possession of recordings between the president and the White House will no doubt provoke fury in the White House. 

Mr Trump has previously described the raids on Mr Cohen’s office as a "witch hunt" and "an attack on our country".

Mr Trump’s current personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, confirmed the veracity of the recording on Friday, but added that the payment was never made, and said the Republican president had not been party to any wrongdoing.

“Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of it in advance,” Mr Giuliani said.

“In the big scheme of things, it’s powerful exculpatory evidence”. 

Mr Cohen, a self-described fixer for mr Trump for more than a decade, said last year that he "would take a bullet" for the president. But earlier this month the lawyer told an interviewer that he now puts "family and country first" and will not let anyone paint him as "a villain of this story."

Hours before the Times published its story, Mr Cohen met in New York Friday morning with the Rev. Al Sharpton, a frequent critic of Trump.

Mr Cohen and Rev Sharpton said in tweets they have known each other for 20 years. Mr Cohen contacted the civil rights activist in recent weeks, longtime Sharpton spokeswoman Rachel Noerdlinger said.

She said the two revisited conversations they’d had over the years when Mr Cohen was Rev Sharpton’s conduit to Mr Trump during clashes over race issues and over his years of questioning the authenticity of former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.

Mr Cohen tweeted there’s "no one better to talk to!" than Rev Sharpton, who used his own Twitter account to advise readers: "Stay tuned."

Melania Trump plays bowls in stilettos with Theresa May’s husband

First Lady Melania Trump donned high-heeled stilettos to play bowls with the Prime Minister’s husband.

Mrs Trump, 48, joined Philip May, 60, at the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London where she met Chelsea pensioners and local children.

The First Lady was wearing a sleeveless dress with wide coloured panels, and towering heels with a red sole which appeared to be by Christian Louboutin.

Accredited members of the press were advised to wear flat shoes to the event, but Mrs Trump’s heels did not stop her from walking on to the bowling green and taking part in the game.

She bowled four times, and smiled as though she was enjoying the activity, while the light breeze blew her hair back from her face.

Before she took to the bowling green, Mrs Trump met school children from Saint George’s Church of England primary school who were making remembrance poppies.

When she arrived into the room, she said "good morning" and asked the children if they would like to show her how to make the poppies.

Mrs Trump had a go at making one, and told the children: "Thank you for helping me."

She showed Mr May her effort and joked: "Very professional."

After the poppy making, Mrs Trump listened to school children talk about values and service.

Mrs Trump sat beside Mr May in front of a poster which said "Be the best you can be".

The Royal Hospital Chelsea was founded as a retirement home for soldiers by King Charles II in 1682, and the Chelsea pensioners are famous for their distinctive scarlet coats.

Before Mrs Trump’s arrival, waiting media – who had gone through rigorous security checks – were told not to shout out questions.

She was greeted by Mr May when she stepped out of her vehicle which was preceded on the route to the hospital by at least four police outriders.

The convoy also included around five black jeeps.

On arrival, Mrs Trump met Lieutenant colonel Nicky Mott, hospital CEO Gary Lashko and Chelsea pensioners John Riley, Alan Collins and Marjorie Cole.

Slovenian-born former model Mrs Trump and Oxford graduate Mr May made for an unlikely pairing on Friday morning, but greeted each other warmly and appeared relaxed in each other’s company.

The first lady became Donald Trump’s third and current wife in 2005 after becoming a couple in 1998.

They had a son, Barron, in 2006, the year she became a US citizen.

The glamorous first lady-in-waiting was caught up in controversy during the election campaign when news organisations questioned whether nude photos she posed for in 1995 meant she worked illegally in the US under the wrong visa. She has denied the claim.

She was also caught up in a plagiarism row at the Republican National Convention in July when two passages from her address – each 30 words or longer – matched a 2008 Democratic convention address by Michelle Obama nearly word-for-word.

Born Melanija Knavs in Novo Mesto in 1970, the first lady grew up in Sevnica while Slovenia was part of the Communist-ruled former Yugoslavia.

She left in her twenties to pursue a modelling career and appeared in high profile ad campaigns.

Meanwhile, city financier Mr May has kept a determinedly low profile as his wife rose through the ranks of the Conservative Party, with the couple having been an item since their student days.

His appearance for a Westminster photocall embracing his wife on the day she was confirmed as David Cameron’s successor was the first many had seen of him.

They have been married for 35 years after meeting while they were studying at Oxford University in 1976.

The pair were introduced at a Conservative Association dance by the late Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Those close to the couple say he shares her passion for politics and has been an essential support in her career and sounding board for her ideas.

When they first got together, it was Philip who some thought would rise to the top in politics, after he was elected president of the Oxford Union, a springboard for many future ministers.

They bonded over a shared love of cricket and belief in Conservative politics, and married in 1980 in the Oxfordshire church of Mrs May’s father, an Anglican vicar.

Donald Trump's UK visit | Read more

Las Vegas resort sues victims of America’s worst-ever mass shooting to stop them taking legal action

The owners of the Las Vegas resort from where 58 people were killed in America’s worst-ever mass shooting have sued the victims, in a bid to prevent them taking legal action against the company.

MGM Resorts International, which owns the Mandalay Bay hotel and the Route 91 music festival, where the victims were gathered on October 1, has filed lawsuits against more than 1,000 victims.

The suits, filed in federal courts in California and Nevada, argue that MGM cannot be held liable for deaths and injuries from the mass shooting under a 2002 law passed by Congress.

The law gives immunity to companies that use "anti-terrorism" technology or services that can "help prevent and respond to mass violence".

MGM argue that the security company made use of such technology.

Debra DeShong, a spokesman for MGM, said that the action was being taken in the best interests of victims.

"Years of drawn out litigation and hearings are not in the best interest of victims, the community and those still healing," she said.

The complaint does not seek money from the victims, but instead seeks to have their cases moved to a federal court – where the 2002 federal act may provide more protection for MGM.

Ms DeShong, however, insisted that the action was being taken because federal courts would provide swifter justice for the victims.

"Congress provided that the federal courts were the correct place for such litigation relating to incidents of mass violence like this one where security services approved by the Department of Homeland Security were provided," she said. "The federal court is an appropriate venue for these cases and provides those affected with the opportunity for a timely resolution.”

Lawsuits have been filed against both MGM and concert promoter Live Nation, accusing the companies of not having adequate security or properly trained staff.

Yet a lawyer for at least 900 of the victims, Robert Eglet, called the pre-emptive action “outrageous”.

The FBI has yet to call the mass shooting that took place in Las Vegas an act of terrorism, because the motive of the gunman, Stephen Paddock, remains unclear.

Mr Eglet told The Telegraph that MGM’s actions were "reprehensible".

He said they were trying to claim that the 2002 act would give them immunity from suits.

"So to suggest they are trying to prevent the victims from suing is simply not true."

He said the 2002 act is irrelevant, because the security company employed by the concert promoters had nothing to do with the hotel and resort. He also said it would not apply anyway, because Paddock’s attack has not been classed as terrorism.

"And it won’t be classed as terrorism," he said. "All evidence points to a lone individual."

He said it was distressing for those caught up in the attack to be "victimised twice".

American woman celebrating wedding anniversary killed by stray bullet in Mexico

An American tourist has been killed by a stray bullet while holidaying in Mexico with her husband to celebrate their one year wedding anniversary.

Tatiana Mirutenko, a 27-year-old pharmaceutical analyst from California, was fatally shot leaving an upscale taco restaurant with her partner, James Hoover, and two other friends, in Mexico City in the early hours of Saturday.

Mexico City authorities say gunmen on a motorbike opened fire as they travelled through the wealthy capital neighbourhood of Lomas de Chapultepec.

The city prosecutor’s office believe the men intended to target a bouncer working at a bar in the area when Ms Mirutenko was struck in the head by a bullet.

“A year ago, we were selecting flowers for the wedding,” her father Wasyl Mirutenko told ABC 7. “Today we were looking at flowers for the funeral.”

Officials say the 46-year-old man was wounded, but survived and was taken to hospital. There is no indication the two victims knew each other. No arrests have been made.

Days before she was killed, Ms Mirutenko shared photos from her wedding day on July 1 last year which she had captioned with a heart.

The photos showed her embracing and kissing her husband, who also shared a photo of them celebrating their wedding on the roof of a Chicago hotel with the caption: “Happy anniversary, love! @tmenko #oneyearanniversary.”

The couple wanted to dine in as many Michelin starred restaurants as possible during their anniversary trip, local media reports.

Mr Hoover shared photos on Instagram from one restaurant trip, telling one friend about an “incredible meal” he had earlier enjoyed in Quintonil, named as one of the world’s top 50 restaurants.

The US Bureau of Consular Affairs confirmed Ms Mirutenk’s death in a statement, adding: “We extend our sincere condolences to friends and family members of the deceased.

“The US Embassy in Mexico City is providing all appropriate consular services to her family. Out of respect for the family during this difficult time, we have no further comment.”

Her work colleagues paid tribute to Ms Mirutenk, calling her a “bright and passionate rising star” who had “positive energy, insight and sheer enthusiasm for life”.

The wealthy neighbourhood of Lomas de Chapultepec is home to the rich and famous, including Angelica Rivera, the First Lady of Mexico.

Turkish televangelist who surrounded himself with scantily-clad women detained on fraud and sex charges

Turkish police on Wednesday detained on fraud charges a televangelist notorious for propagating conservative views while surrounded by scantily-clad women he refers to as his "kittens".

Adnan Oktar, a bizarre and controversial figure who also denies evolution, was detained alongside dozens of mainly female alleged supporters on accusations of fraud, bribery and sexual assault.

Mr Oktar, who critics see as the leader of a cult, gained notoriety for his programmes on the online A9 television channel and had regularly been denounced by Turkey’s religious leaders.

He presented programmes surrounded by scantily-clad and heavily made-up women who he dubbed "kittens".

In a major crackdown on his group, he was taken into custody in Istanbul as part of a probe by the city’s police financial crimes unit, state-run Anadolu news agency said.

A total of 235 arrest warrants were issued and at least 166 people have been detained so far in helicopter-backed raids in Istanbul, Ankara and also southern Turkey, Anadolu said. NTV television said 100 of those detained are female.

Mr Oktar was caught as he was trying to run away, the Istanbul public prosecutor said in a statement, quoted by the Hurriyet daily. His lawyers were also detained.

He is also accused of "setting up an organisation with the aim of committing crime", "committing fraud through abuse of religious belief and sentiment", Anadolu said.

Mr Oktar’s assets were seized, Anadolu said, adding that authorities appointed a trustee to his companies, associations and foundations.

Weapons including guns and rifles were also found during the raids, the agency said.

Before officers took him for a medical check, Mr Oktar told waiting media that the claims were "lies", adding: "This is a game by the British deep state."

He often rails against the so-called "British deep state" in his programme and in one video, he says it has "sneakily disguised itself" and is linked to criminal groups.

Mr Oktar is himself accused of political and military espionage by authorities.

Mr Oktar is a creationist who rejects the Darwinian theory of evolution and has written a 770-page book "The Atlas of Creation" under the pen name, Harun Yahya.

Mr Oktar first came to media attention in the 1990s when he was the leader of a sect caught up in multiple sex scandals. As a result, he had faced similar criminal charges of setting up a criminal organisation.

One of the "kittens" Ceylan Ozgul said in March that she ran away and slammed the lack of freedom but another woman, Tulay Kumasci, said Ozgul left of her own free will.

The head of Turkey’s Diyanet religious affairs agency Ali Erbas said earlier this year that Mr Oktar had "likely lost his mental balance", prompting a war of words with the televangelist.

In February, workers from the Turkish Diyanet and Foundation Workers’ Union (Diyanet-Sen) launched a legal complaint against Mr Oktar over various allegations including insulting sacred values.

In the same month, Turkey’s audiovisual authority RTUK ordered a programme presented by Mr Oktar to cease broadcasting five times and handed down a fine because it violated gender equality and belittled women.

Former Macron security guard charged with assaulting protesters throwing presidency into turmoil

A former senior security aide of Emmanuel Macron was charged on Sunday night with assaulting protesters in an incident that has thrown the presidency into turmoil.

Parliament was forced to suspend debate on a key constitutional reform bill as MPs accused the government of attempting to cover up the allegations against Alexandre Benalla.

It is the most serious political crisis since Mr Macron took office last year. 

Mr Benalla was charged with assault, carrying an illegal weapon, interfering with public officials carrying out their duties, wearing police insignia without permission and illegally obtaining official CCTV surveillance video. If found guilty, he risks seven years in prison and a £40,000 fine. All the suspects were released on bail.

The accusation of a cover-up to protect Mr Benalla, described as a member of the president’s inner circle, has badly damaged the image of Mr Macron, who promised to bring “a new morality” to public life. His approval rating sank to a record low last week. 

The president, who is under mounting pressure to comment publicly on the case, held a crisis meeting with senior ministers on Sunday night. He reportedly described Bella’s conduct as “shocking” and “unacceptable” and asked his chief of staff, Alexis Kohler, to propose ways of reorganising the presidential team so this type of incident would not happen again.

Gérard Collomb, the interior minister, is facing calls to resign after claims that he knew about the alleged assault but failed to act. He is to appear before a parliamentary committee of inquiry on Monday.

Mr Benalla had to cancel his wedding on Saturday as detectives questioned him and searched his home before releasing him from custody in the evening.

Mr Macron and his wife Brigitte had not planned to attend the wedding reception at a restaurant in the chic 16th arrondissement of Paris, but several other presidential officials had been expected.

Mr Benalla was suspended for two weeks after the alleged assault on May 1. But he was only sacked as a top presidential security official on Friday, two days after Le Monde newspaper published mobile phone footage showing Mr Benalla wearing a police helmet and armband as he hit a man and attempted to push a woman to the ground.

Police were shown watching without intervening. Suspicions of a cover-up were fuelled by what appeared to be inconsistent answers by Mr Macron’s office.

It said Mr Benalla had been moved to administrative duties instead of security after the alleged assault, but photographs emerged during the weekend showing him at the president’s side, on July 14, Bastille Day, apparently guarding him.

Mr Benalla, 26, who earned more than £100,000 a year, was given a grace-and-favour apartment earlier this month in a palatial riverside mansion where President François Mitterrand housed his mistress and their illegitimate daughter.

He also had an official car, equipped with a revolving emergency light, a driver and a parliamentary pass to enter the National Assembly.  

A reserve gendarme holding the rank of lieutenant-colonel, he accompanied security forces at the May Day demonstration as an observer from the president’s office.

He is reported to have told investigators that the police officer liaising with him provided him with an armband, a helmet and a police radio. It emerged that Mr Benalla, a law graduate, told friends that he dreamed of becoming a security consultant to showbiz stars.

He is said to have been obsessed with the film, The Bodyguard, in which Whitney Houston plays a singer who falls in love with a former secret service agent hired to protect her.

A former gym trainer in Evreux, a town near Paris where Mr Benalla grew up, said he had been “a skinny kid who pumped iron like one of the damned”. Prosecutors asked for Mr Benalla and Mr Crase to be barred from working in any public function or possessing weapons.

Mike Pompeo rejects EU appeal for exemptions in sanctions against Iran

Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, has rejected a high-level appeal from the EU for exemptions from sanctions against Iran, throwing into doubt billions of euros worth of trade.

Senior officials from Britain, France and Germany had pleaded with the US not to impose sanctions next month on European companies which do business with Iran. 

In a letter to the nations’ finance and foreign ministers, Mr Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin rejected the appeal, saying America wanted to exert "unprecedented financial pressure" on Tehran after President Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal in May. 

Mr Pompeo added that the US will not ease the sanctions until it sees a “tangible, demonstrable and sustained shift’’ in Iran’s policies.

“The president withdrew from the [Iran nuclear deal] for a simple reason – it failed to guarantee the safety of the American people,’’ Mr Pompeo and Mr Mnuchin wrote in a letter leaked to the press on Sunday night. 

“We are thus not in a position to make exceptions to this policy except in very specific circumstances where it clearly benefits our national security.’’

The letter was a response to an appeal from the three European countries last month, in which they said they “strongly regret” the US decision to withdraw. 

Some of Europe’s biggest firms rushed to do business with Iran after the nuclear deal was implemented in 2015 and last year the EU exported €10.8bn (£9.5bn) in goods and services to Iran.  Imports from Iran were also worth €10.1bn (£8.8bn).

The other countries that reached the nuclear agreement with Iran – the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China – pledged to continue to honour the nuclear agreement to lift economic sanctions in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program. However the US withdrawal may make that a practical impossibility.

Iran has said it will stay in the deal if it still receives the economic benefits.

The EU nations had sought a host of exemptions, including assurances that secondary sanctions on companies that deal with Iran would not be applied to EU businesses and individuals. 

However, one EU diplomat said they had not realistically expected to get sanctions relief from the US, and a number of companies such as Peugeot and Total have already cut back their business with Iran for fear of jeopardising their business prospects in the US.

The first set of US sanctions, which take effect on August 6, will target Iran’s automotive sector, trade in gold and in other key metals.

The remaining sanctions are due to come into effect on November 4 and will target Iran’s energy sector, in particular its oil trade, and transactions with the Central Bank of Iran.

Colombian police investigate radioactive box found in densely populated neighbourhood

Colombian police are investigating the discovery of a box containing radioactive material, including uranium and plutonium, which has prompted a major security alert in the city of Cali. 

Specialist police and fire units as well as Colombian air force officials attended the scene in the neighborhood of El Troncal, in the north east of the city, on Monday afternoon after the alarm was raised by local residents.

Several streets were cordoned off and homes and businesses evacuated as teams in hazmat suits investigated the polystyrene container. It was feared the box could contain a bomb; however instead, two bars of radioactive material weighing approximately five kilos (11lb) were discovered, composed of uranium, plutonium and iridium. 

After a five-hour operation in the neighbourhood, a radiological emergencies team was sent in to remove it to an unnamed site in an unpopulated area for final disposal. 

Authorities on Tuesday had yet to determine the source of the material and how or why it came to be left in the densely populated neighborhood. Local residents quoted in El Espectador, a leading Colombian daily, said that a man had approached a shop carrying the box and claiming to have a delivery; he then disappeared from one moment to the next, leaving the package next to some nearby chairs. 

“They initially said it was a bomb, but later they advised us it was possibly a chemical agent. They asked us all to come out of our houses and move to more than 100 metres away,” Rodrigo Hernández, head of the neighbourhood’s action committee, told the paper. 

Officials later sought to calm local fears of contamination, saying that while the materials were highly dangerous, they did not pose a risk to human life in the quantities found and at that length of exposure. However three people who initially opened the box to inspect it were reported to have undergone specialist checks.

Alberto Hernandez, risk management director for the Cali fire service, told reporters that the materials could have originated in the medical or petrochemical industries.