HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Two women — a Vietnamese and an Indonesian — have been arrested for allegedly coating their hands with the immensely toxic chemical agent VX and wiping them on the face of the North Korean leader's estranged half brother Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur's airport. He died within hours.
The women told officials from their embassies in Malaysia that they believed the entire operation was a harmless prank for a reality show. Malaysian police say the attackers knew what they were doing and had been trained to go immediately to the bathroom and clean their hands.
Here's a brief profile of the two suspects:
DOAN THI HUONG, 28
Described as nice, well-behaved and naive by her family and friends, Huong used to work at a cowboy-themed saloon in downtown Hanoi, where she and her friend served drinks, shared late snacks and tips on how to get guests drink more.
"In a million years, I cannot think she is an agent," her friend, who identified herself only as Trang, told The Associated Press. "She is a simple girl, always laughing and joking around."
Huong's father, Doan Van Thanh, said his daughter left their farming village of Nghia Binh about 10 years ago to study at a pharmacy school in Hanoi, about 130 kilometers (80 miles) away, and only occasionally returned home, where she had few friends. The last time the family saw her was during the Lunar New Year holiday in late January, when she spent five days at home.
"How could she have dared to do such an earth-shaking thing?" Thanh said. "She was scared of rats and toads, she would not have dared to do it."
Huong's niece, 18-year-old Dinh Thi Quyen, said she believes Huong was fooled into taking part. "My aunt is a very nice and kind person, but she easily trusted other people," Quyen said.
She said that Huong called her on Feb. 14, one day after Kim's death, and asked her to buy a prepaid cellphone card so she could transfer the card's cash value to a shop in Hanoi to pay for a deposit on a dress she liked.
Huong has appeared on the Vietnam Idol singing contest but was eliminated, Quyen said, and last year, in a YouTube video, she is kissed by the popular prankster Quang Bek, who chats up women in the street.
Huong had rented a small, windowless room without furniture in a working quarter in Hanoi for six months before moving out three months ago, said her landlord who identified herself only as Hoa.
"I could never think that she did something like that," she said.
SITI AISYAH, 25
Indonesia's deputy ambassador in Kuala Lumpur, Andriano Erwin, quoted Aisyah as saying that she was paid the equivalent of $90 for what she believed was a harmless prank. Aisyah said she had been introduced to people who looked like Japanese or Koreans and who asked her to play a prank for a reality show, according to Erwin.
Asked if she knew what was on her hands at the time of the attack, Erwin said: "She didn't tell us about that. She only said that it's a kind of oil, baby oil, something like that."
Between 2008 and 2011, Aisyah and her former husband lived in a modest dwelling in the densely populated Tambora neighborhood in western Jakarta. Her former father-in-law Tjia Liang Kiong, wko last saw Aisyah on Jan. 28, described her as a "very kind, polite and respectful person."
"I was shocked to hear that she was arrested for murdering someone," he said. "I don't believe that she would commit such a crime or what the media says — that she is an intelligence agent."
Aisyah's mother, Benah, said that the family comes from a humble village background and has no ability to help her.
"Since we heard that from the television, I could not sleep and eat. Same as her father, he just prays and reads the holy Quran. He even does not want to speak," said Benah. "As villagers, we could only pray."
Aisyah, according to Kiong, had only completed junior high school and moved to Malaysia with her husband in 2011 to seek a better life after the garment-making shop they ran from their home went out of business. The couple left their nearly 2-year-old son in Jakarta, who has been raised by Kiong and his wife since then.
A year after leaving Indonesia, Aisyah returned to Jakarta and told Kiong she wanted a divorce from his son because he'd changed and the marriage had become unhappy. Kiong said his son gave a different account: Aisyah was having an affair with a Malaysian man.
Associated Press writer Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.