The Latest: Malaysia says airport safe, no trace of toxin

AP News
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Posted: Feb 25, 2017 3:49 PM
The Latest: Malaysia says airport safe, no trace of toxin

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — The Latest on Malaysia's investigation into the apparent assassination of the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (all times local):

4:45 a.m.

Malaysian police have completed a sweep of the airport terminal where the exiled half-brother of North Korea's leader was attacked and say they found no trace of the nerve agent that was suspected to have been used to kill him.

Senior police official Abdul Samah Mat, who is leading the investigation, declared the budget terminal at Kuala Lumpur's airport a "safe zone" after the sweep detected no hazardous material. More than a dozen officers in protective gear conducted the two-hour sweep early Sunday.

The investigation has unleashed a serious diplomatic fight between Malaysia and North Korea, a prime suspect in the Feb. 13 killing of Kim Jong Nam. Friday's revelation by Malaysian police that the banned chemical weapon VX nerve agent was used to kill Kim raised the stakes significantly in a case that has broad geopolitical implications.

The sweep involved officers from the police's chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear teams, as well as the fire department's hazardous materials unit and the government's atomic energy board.

Abdul Samah says the budget terminal is "free from any form of contamination of hazardous material."

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3:30 am

Malaysia's Health Minister S. Subramaniam says autopsy results suggest a nerve agent caused serious paralysis that led to the death of North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un's half brother.

Police revealed Friday that the chemistry department detected the banned chemical weapon VX nerve agent on the eyes and face of Kim Jong Nam, who was poisoned Feb. 13 at the Kuala Lumpur airport. Police have said two women, currently in custody, coated their hands with the chemical and wiped Kim's face with it.

Subramaniam said Sunday the chemistry department's finding confirmed the hospital's autopsy result, which suggested a chemical agent caused "very serious paralysis" that led to death "in a very short period of time." He said the VX agent can lead to death very quickly in high doses.

Subramaniam says there have been no reports of anyone else being sickened by the toxin since the attack.

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2:30 a.m.

Malaysian authorities have begun sweeping the airport terminal where North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un's half brother was killed to check for possible traces of the nerve agent that was suspected to have been used in the attack.

The investigation has unleashed a serious diplomatic fight between Malaysia and North Korea, a prime suspect in the Feb. 13 killing of Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur's airport. Friday's revelation by Malaysian police that the banned chemical weapon VX nerve agent was used to kill Kim raised the stakes significantly in a case that has broad geopolitical implications.

The sweep started around 2 a.m. Sunday with parts of the departure hall of the budget terminal, where Kim was killed, cordoned off. It involved officers from the police's chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear teams, as well as the fire department's hazardous materials unit and the government's atomic energy board.

Police officials say no flights are scheduled at the terminal during the sweep.

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9:45 p.m.

Vietnam says the Vietnamese woman under arrest in Malaysia for allegedly helping to carry out the deadly attack on North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un's half brother thought she was taking part in a prank.

Doan Thi Huong is among two women arrested for the Feb. 13 airport attack on Kim Jong Nam, which Malaysian police say was carried out with the banned chemical weapon VX nerve agent.

Vietnam's foreign ministry said in a statement posted on its website that a representative from the Vietnamese Embassy in Malaysia met with Huong on Saturday and confirmed that she is Vietnamese citizen. She is in stable health.

According to the statement, Huong said she was tricked and thought she was playing a prank. The other woman arrested over the attack, an Indonesian, also says she thought she was taking part in a prank.

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8:30 p.m.

Malaysian police say they will conduct a sweep of the terminal at Kuala Lumpur's airport where North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un's exiled half brother was killed to check for possible traces of the toxic chemical suspected to have been used in the attack.

A police statement Saturday said the operation will start at 1 a.m. Sunday.

The sweep will involve officers from the police's chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear teams, as well as the hazardous materials unit under the fire department and the atomic energy board.

Since the Feb. 13 attack, tens of thousands of passengers have passed through Kuala Lumpur's airport. No areas were cordoned off and protective measures were not taken, though officials announced Friday that the facility would be decontaminated.

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7:55 p.m.

Malaysia says it will issue an arrest warrant for a North Korean diplomat if he refuses to cooperate with the investigation into the deadly attack on North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un's exiled half brother.

The investigation has unleashed a serious diplomatic fight between Malaysia and North Korea, a prime suspect in the Feb. 13 killing of Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur's airport. On Friday, Malaysian police said the banned chemical weapon VX nerve agent was used to kill Kim.

Malaysia said earlier in the week that Hyon Kwang Song, a second secretary at the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, was wanted for questioning. But authorities at the time acknowledged that he has diplomatic immunity and that they couldn't compel him to appear.

On Saturday, Malaysia's tone changed.

Abdul Samah Mat, the police chief leading the investigation, said authorities would give the diplomat "reasonable" time to come forward. If he doesn't, police will issue a notice compelling him to do so, though diplomats have immunity privileges even in criminal cases.

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5 p.m.

Indonesia's deputy ambassador to Malaysia says the Indonesian suspect in the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's half brother was paid $90 to help carry out the attack involving VX nerve agent.

But Deputy Ambassador Andriano Erwin repeated Siti Aisyah's previous claim that she was duped into the plot, thinking she was taking part in a prank.

Erwin met Aisyah on Saturday in Malaysia, where the 25-year-old is in custody. Another alleged attacker, a Vietnamese woman, also has been arrested.

According to police, Aisyah rubbed VX nerve agent on the face of Kim Jong Nam amid crowds of travelers at Kuala Lumpur's airport on Feb. 13. Kim was the older half brother of North Korea's ruler.