Kim Jong-nam killed by highly toxic nerve agent– Malaysia

VX listed on UN weapons of mass destruction was smeared on Kim’s face at airport

Airport footage purports to show the attack on Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, in Kuala Lumpur airport. Video: Reuters


Malaysian police say a highly toxic chemical known as VX nerve agent, which is on a United Nations list of weapons of mass destruction, was used to assassinate the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last week at Kuala Lumpur airport.

The announcement came as officers began a sweep of the airport for any traces of the deadly toxin.

Kim Jong-nam (46) died on February 13th after he was attacked by two women, one Vietnamese and the other Indonesian, who smeared the toxic chemical on his face as he awaited a flight to Macau at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Malaysia’s police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said the two women suspected of killing Kim Jong-nam were paid to carry out the assault and had washed their hands before fleeing from the airport. One of the two women also suffered its effects.

“She was vomiting,” Mr Khalid told a news conference, without elaborating. Swabs taken from the eye and the face of Kim Jong-nam revealed the presence of the nerve agent, which is one of the world’s most toxic chemical warfare agents and is fatal after 15 minutes if absorbed in sufficient doses.

Police are also seeking seven other North Koreans wanted in connection with the case, including a diplomat at the embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

Mr Khalid said the police were now investigating whether the VX nerve agent was brought into Malaysia or made there, and authorities were searching the airport and other locations for radioactive material.

“If the amount of the chemical brought in was small, it would be difficult for us to detect,” he said, according to the New Straits Times.

VX is a clear, amber-coloured oily liquid, odourless and tasteless, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

‘One drop can be fatal’

“As little as one drop of VX on the skin can be fatal. Nerve agents are chemically similar to organophosphate pesticides and exert their effects by interfering with the normal function of the nervous system,” the CDC says on its website.

Exposure on the skin can lead to loss of consciousness, seizures, muscular twitching, paralysis, convulsions and respiratory failure before death, the CDC said.

This week, the North Koreans fiercely denied they were behind the killing, and blamed the Malaysians, but the South Koreans said they should own up to the assassination.

North Korea will see its international image further worsen (if it continues to deny the allegation),” Jeong Joon-hee, a unification ministry spokesman, told the Yonhap news agency.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visiting the People’s Theatre in Pyongyang on Wednesday. Photograph: Getty Images
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visiting the People’s Theatre in Pyongyang on Wednesday. Photograph: Getty Images

Mr Kim had been travelling on a passport under the name Kim Chol, and North Korea has yet to confirm that the deceased was in fact Kim Jong-nam.

The eldest son of Korean leader Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-nam was once in line for the leadership but was passed over in favour of his half-brother Kim Jong-un.

South Korean analysts have said the assassination was carried out to eliminate him as a threat to Kim Jong-un’s continued rule in North Korea.

In a sidebar to the increasingly bizarre story, the Facebook page of the Vietnamese suspect Doan Thi Huong, who wore a shirt emblazoned with the acronym LOL (laugh out loud) after the attack, according to CCTV footage, showed that she was a keen singer who possibly once appeared on Vietnam Idol.

Malaysian police said Ms Huong was an “entertainment outlet employee” but gave no more details.

Additional reporting Reuters