Malaysia says VX nerve agent was used in murder of Kim Jong Nam

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 24 (Reuters) - The estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was killed with a highly toxic chemical weapon known as VX nerve agent, Malaysian police said on Friday, citing a preliminary report.

Kim Jong Nam died after being assaulted at Kuala Lumpur International Airport last Monday while preparing to board a flight to Macau.

South Korean and U.S. officials have said they believe North Korean agents assassinated Kim Jong Nam, who had been living in the Chinese territory of Macau under Beijing's protection.

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Malaysia's Royal Police Chief Khalid Abu Bakar (C) speaks next to a screen showing North Korean Kim Uk Il during a news conference regarding the apparent assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of the North Korean leader, at the Malaysian police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, February 22, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Malaysia's Royal Police Chief Khalid Abu Bakar (C) speaks next to a screen showing North Korean suspect Ri Ji U during a news conference regarding the apparent assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of the North Korean leader, at the Malaysian police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, February 22, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Malaysia's Royal Police Chief Khalid Abu Bakar (C) speaks next to a screen showing North Korean suspect Ri Ji U during a news conference regarding the apparent assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of the North Korean leader, at the Malaysian police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, February 22, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Malaysian police officers gather in front of the gate of the morgue at Kuala Lumpur General Hospital where Kim Jong Nam's body is held for autopsy in Malaysia February 21, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
A reporter holds up a local newspaper during his report in front of the morgue at Kuala Lumpur General Hospital where Kim Jong Nam's body is held for autopsy in Malaysia February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Malaysia's Royal Police Chief Khalid Abu Bakar demonstrates to the media during a news conference regarding the apparent assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of the North Korean leader, at the Malaysian police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, February 22, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Nguyen Thi Vy, 54, mother in law of Doan Thi Huong, a suspect involved in the assassination of Kim Jong-Un's half-brother, looks at handouts and published photographs of the four arrested suspects including Huong at Huong's family home in Nghia Hung district, northern province of Nam Dinh on February 22, 2017. Detectives probing the assassination of Kim Jong-Un's half-brother want to question a North Korean diplomat, Malaysia's top policeman said. Royal Malaysian Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said Vietnamese suspect Doan Thi Huong, 28, and Indonesian Siti Aishah, 25, had been trained to swab the man's face, practising in Kuala Lumpur before the assault at the airport. / AFP / HOANG DINH NAM (Photo credit should read HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images)
A look at the murder of Kim Jong Nam, North Korea leader Kim Jong Un's estranged half brother.
Package looking at Kim Jong Nam's movement, the Kim family and the purge led by Kim Jong Un.
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Police said swabs taken from the eye and the face of a North Korean national by the chemistry department of Malaysia revealed the presence of VX.

VX nerve agent, or S-2 Diisoprophylaminoethyl methylphosphonothiolate, is chemical weapon classified as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations.

"Other exhibits are under analysis," Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said in the statement.

Police chief Khalid said earlier that a Vietnamese woman and a Indonesian woman wiped a liquid on Kim Jong Nam's face. They later washed their hands and fled the scene.

Airport camera footage released on Monday by Japanese broadcaster Fuji TV shows the moment the women appeared to assault Kim Jong Nam, who is later seen asking airport officials for medical help. He died on the way to hospital.

VX is tasteless and odorless, and is outlawed under the Chemical Weapons Convention, except for "research, medical or pharmaceutical purposes."

It can be manufactured as a liquid, cream or aerosol. Absorbed in large doses, it is fatal after 15 minutes, according to the U.S. Army's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, making it the most toxic known nerve agent in the world.

Malaysia on Thursday requested Interpol to put an alert out to apprehend four North Korean suspects in the murder.

Police are also holding one North Korean man, but are seeking another seven in connection with the murder.

(Reporting by Joseph Sipalan and Tom Allard; Writing by Praveen Menon; Editing by Lincoln Feast)


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