In the latest turn of increasingly more bizarre events leading up the death of North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un’s half brother, who as revealed late last week had been poisoned with the deadly VX nerve agent, the arrested Indonesian woman who is one of the suspects in the killing said she was paid $90 to apply a baby oil-like liquid to his face in what she believed was a “prank.”
Siti Aisyah, in her first meeting with Indonesian officials after more than a week in detention said Saturday she didn’t know that the substance—subsequently identified by police as a banned, lethal nerve agent known as VX—was poisonous. Police believe Ms. Aisyah and another woman, Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam, applied the chemical to Mr. Kim’s face on Feb. 13 in a three-second assault at Kuala Lumpur International Airport that was orchestrated by a group of North Korean men. Mr. Kim died shortly afterward. Aisyah told Indonesian officials she thought she was playing a prank as part of a reality show.
According to Indonesian officials, Aisyah told authorities she did not want her parents to see her in custody. “She doesn’t want her family get sad to see her condition,” Indonesia’s deputy ambassador to Malaysia, Andriano Erwin said after speaking to the suspect. Erwin said Aisyah told Indonesian officials that men with Japanese or Korean appearances, and names name like James and Chang, asked her to carry out the act, and that she was paid about 400 Malaysian ringgit ($90).
As the WSJ adds, until several years ago, Aisyah, a 25-year-old from a small town in western Java, was working at a clothing store at a mall in Indonesia, making about $200 a month. But she has traveled extensively in Asia since then, people with knowledge of the matter told the Journal.
The other woman of Vietnamese origin, who was also arrested as a murder suspect, also said she thought she was taking part in a prank video, Vietnam’s foreign ministry said on Saturday according to Reuters. Hanoi had not previously confirmed that Doan Thi Huong was Vietnamese, saying only that it was in touch with authorities in Malaysia, where Kim Jong Nam was murdered on Feb. 13. Vietnamese embassy officials met her on Saturday.
“Her health is stable. During the meeting with embassy officials, Doan Thi Huong said she was being taken advantage of and thought she was starring in a comedy video,” the foreign ministry statement said.
Doan Thi Huong as seen in a handout released by the Royal Malaysia Police.
The public poisoning of Kim Jong Nam, which took place Feb. 13 amid crowds of travelers at the airport, appeared to be a well-planned hit. Kim was dead within hours of the attack, in which two women went up behind him and appeared to smear something onto his face.
While both Aisyah, 25, and Huong have said they were duped into the attack, Malaysian police say she and the other female suspect, a Vietnamese woman who also is in custody, knew what they were doing.
Kim Jong Nam, who had been living abroad for years, was approached by the two women on Feb. 13 as he waited for a flight home to Macau. In grainy surveillance footage, the women appear to rub something onto his face before walking away in separate directions. Malaysian police said they had been trained to go immediately to the washroom and clean their hands. Both women seen in the video are in custody.
As Fox News adds, the revelation that VX nerve agent killed Kim has boosted speculation that North Korea had dispatched a hit squad to Malaysia to kill Kim, whose younger half brother is Kim Jong Un. The thick, oily poison was almost certainly produced in a sophisticated state weapons laboratory, experts say, and is banned under international treaties. North Korea, a prime suspect in the case, never signed that treaty, and has spent decades developing a complex chemical weapons program.
VX is an extremely powerful poison, with an amount no larger than a few grains of salt enough to kill. An odorless chemical, it can be inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin. Then, in anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours, it can cause a range of symptoms, from blurred vision to a headache. Enough exposure leads to convulsions, paralysis, respiratory failure and death.
It has the consistency of motor oil and can take days or even weeks to evaporate. It could have contaminated anywhere Kim was afterward, including medical facilities and the ambulance he was transported in, experts say. Airport officials and police have insisted the facility is safe. Abdul Samah, the police official, said police are tracing the suspects’ steps to ensure public safety. Asked if the airport cleanup had started, he said: “It is already in process.”
Malaysia hasn’t directly accused the North Korean government of being behind the attack, but officials have said four North Korean men provided the two women with poison. The four fled Malaysia shortly after the killing.