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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Toxic mystery behind Kim Jong Nam’s assassination

Some experts say binary version of VX known as VX2 was used, with two chemicals applied on his face which are not toxic on their own, but lethal when mixed.
KUALA LUMPUR: More than a month after Kim Jong Nam was murdered in Kuala Lumpur, experts are struggling to make sense of Malaysia’s findings that the lethal nerve agent VX was used to kill him without apparent harm to anyone else.
Malaysian police have released virtually no forensic evidence connected to the high-profile assassination of the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un.
Scientists are confounded by how VX – a toxin so deadly it is classed as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations – was deployed in an international airport without causing serious injury to the assailants, first responder medics or other travellers.
“We are building speculation upon speculation” to explain what happened, said Jean-Pascal Zanders, an expert on disarmament who focuses on chemical and biological weapons.
CCTV footage of the incident which took place at Malaysia’s low-cost carrier airport, klia2, on Feb 13 shows two women approaching the 45-year-old victim and apparently rubbing his face with a cloth. He died minutes later, according to police, who found traces of VX on his face.
Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, and Doan Thi Huong, 28, from Vietnam, have since been charged with his murder and have told police they were duped into believing they were participating in a TV prank show.
Police have rejected those claims but have not released any evidence to explain how the women were able to handle one of the world’s deadliest toxins without suffering severe harm.
Here are some key questions and answers about the attack:
What is VX?
VX is an organophosphate compound that strikes the nervous system, over-stimulating glands and muscles till they tire and stop working.
People exposed to high doses of the toxin experience seizures, heart failure and a shutdown of the respiratory system. Since it evaporates slowly, it can potentially contaminate areas for long periods of time.
A global treaty signed by more than 160 countries that went into force in 1997 prohibits the production, stockpiling and use of VX.
North Korea, which is not among the signatories to the treaty, has been blamed by Seoul for Kim Jong Nam’s assassination, with the South saying the regime’s leader, Kim Jong Un, wanted to eliminate his half-brother, who is a potential rival. -FMT

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