Almost two weeks after the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un was killed with a lethal nerve agent at Kuala Lumpur airport, Malaysian teams in hazmat suits sealed off the scene of the assassination early yesterday (Feb 26) to sweep the site for toxins.
Two women are seen shoving something into Kim’s face in leaked CCTV footage from the airport. He later suffered a seizure and was dead before he reached hospital.
Malaysia revealed on Friday (Feb 24) that the 45-year-old was assassinated with a lethal nerve agent manufactured for chemical warfare and listed by the UN as a weapon of mass destruction.
Indonesian Siti Aisyah, who was arrested soon after the assassination on February 13, said she believed she was handling a liquid like “baby oil”, the country’s deputy ambassador to Malaysia Andreano Erwin said according to reports.
Siti, 25, “only said in general that somebody asked her to do this activity”, according to Erwin, who was granted access to Siti in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.
Another female suspect, Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, 28, is also in custody over the murder, but Erwin said Siti had told Indonesian consular staff she did not know her.
Huong told Vietnam’s foreign ministry that she believed she had been tricked into killing Kim and thought she was taking part in a prank for a comedy video.
“During contact with embassy staff, Huong said she... had thought she was playing a role in a humorous video clip,” a statement from Vietnam’s foreign ministry said.
Huong gained notoriety after Malaysian police shared CCTV images of her wearing a top emblazoned with “LOL” shortly after the killing.
Malaysian police have said one of the women arrested after the attack fell ill in custody, adding she had been vomiting.
However, Erwin said Siti was physically healthy while Vietnam said Huong was “in stable health”.
The news Friday that lethal VX nerve agent was used in the attack brought condemnation from South Korea, which has pointed the finger at the North over Kim’s death.
Seoul slammed the use of the toxin as a “blatant violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and other international norms”.
The fallout from the attack continued after US media reported unofficial talks in New York between North Korean and former American officials had been cancelled.
Malaysian teams equipped with gas masks and specialised detection machinery descended on Kuala Lumpur airport’s terminal two early yesterday, accompanied by forensic experts and officials from the Atomic Energy Licensing Board.
Large sections of the departures hall were cordoned off with police tape in preparation for the hour-long sweep for traces of the highly potent toxin.
Malaysian police had said they would do everything possible to ensure there was no risk to the public from the nerve agent.
National Police Chief Khalid Abu Bakar said on Friday that experts would sweep the site where the attack took place as well as other locations the female suspects visited.
Detectives are also holding a North Korean man but want to speak to seven other North Koreans, four of whom are thought to have fled to Pyongyang.
One man wanted for questioning, who is believed to still be in Malaysia, is senior North Korean embassy official Hyon Kwang Song, who enjoys diplomatic immunity.
However, state police chief Abdul Samah Mat insisted under Malaysian law “we have the right to call anybody for statements for our investigations”.
He added if wanted people do not co-operate, police would issue a notice “compelling” them to come forward.
Abdul Samah also told reporters an investigation in connection to the murder was ongoing at an apartment complex in Kuala Lumpur but declined to comment on local media reports chemicals has been seized from the address.
No next-of-kin have yet come forward to formally identify the body of the 45-year-old victim or provide a DNA sample, but Abdul Samah said authorities would give relatives a “reasonable” amount of time to do so.