What was until recently was a real-life reincarnation of the move “The International”, just got a double dose of “The Rock” thrown in for good measure.
When yesterday we shared the most recent update in the bizarre assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of North Korea’s ruler, who was murdered in broad daylight inside Kuala Lumpur’s budget airline terminal, we reported that while the two women suspected in the fatal poisoning attack had coated their hands with “mystery” toxic chemicals which they then wiped on Nam’s face, a key question remained unanswered, namely what was the poison used to by the woman with the “LOL” shirt used to murder the North Korean scion.
As CBS reported previously, experts routinely tasked with finding answers in poisoning cases were stumped: what substance could have been used to kill the victim so quickly without sickening the women who apparently deployed it, along with anyone else nearby? Difficult, they said, but doable.
“It’s not an agent that could be cooked up in a hotel room. It’s going to take a lot of knowledge regarding the chemical in order to facilitate an attack like this,” said Bruce Goldberger, a leading toxicologist who heads the forensic medicine division at the University of Florida. He said a nerve gas or ricin, a deadly substance found in castor beans, could be possible. A strong opioid compound could also have been used, though that would likely have incapacitated the victim immediately.
“It would have to be cleverly designed in order to be applied in this fashion without hurting anyone else,” Goldberger said.
“The more unusual, the more potent, the more volatile a poison is, the less likely it is to be detected,” said Olif Drummer, a toxicologist at Australia’s Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine who has spent 40 years in the field. Khalid said the women knew they were handling poisonous materials and “were warned to take precautions.” Surveillance footage showed both keeping their hands away from their bodies after the attack, he said, then going to restrooms to wash. Such details are unclear in video footage that has been released to media.
Well, moments ago the Malaysian police provided the answer, when it reported that the chemical substance used to kill Kim Jong Nam last week was the nerve agent right out of the movei “The Rock” called VX, which happens to be listed as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations.
Khalid Abu Bakar, Malaysia’s inspector general of police, said Friday in a statement that identification of the substance came from a preliminary report. He said swabs were taken from the eye and face of the victim.
VX is described by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “the most potent of all nerve agents”, with a large dose leading to loss of consciousness, paralysis and respiratory failure. Its only known use is as a chemical warfare agent.
VX is banned under the UN Chemical Weapons Convention, to which North Korea is not a party.
The nerve agent, also known as ethyl N-2-Diisopropylaminoethyl Methylphosphonothiolate, was developed in the UK in the 1950s.
As the FT further adds, Malaysian police are seeking at least four North Korean suspects in connection with the murder, who are now believed to be back in Pyongyang. Two other North Korean nationals, including a diplomat in Malaysia, are wanted for questioning.
Police have detained a Vietnamese woman, an Indonesian woman and a North Korean man in connection with Kim’s death.
The murder has frayed relations between North Korea and Malaysia, which this week recalled its ambassador from Pyongyang.
In the aftermath of the fallout from North Korea’s ballistic missile launch and alleged orchestration of Kim Jong Nam’s murder, we reported earlier today that China, which last weekend announced it would ban all coal imports from North Korea, was preparing for “regime collapse” in North Korea, and would “take the necessary measures to safeguard national security in the event of the collapse of the neighbouring North Korean regime”, a defence official said on Thursday.