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(2nd LD) No trace of nerve agent that killed Kim Jong-nam found at airport: Malay gov't

2017/02/26 19:43

(ATTN: UPDATES with news report on dose of VX)

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb. 26 (Yonhap) -- No trace of the nerve agent that killed the estranged half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been found at the capital city's airport, Malay authorities said Sunday.

The country's police said they thoroughly swept through Kuala Lumpur International Airport's second terminal, and found the site free of contamination and hazardous material. The screening was conducted in the early hours of the day as the Southeast Asian country confirmed that the autopsy of Kim Jong-nam found traces of the VX agent.

The deceased, the eldest son of former late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il was killed shortly after two women smeared the lethal substance all over his face on Feb. 13. He was rushed to a nearby hospital but died en route.

Also Sunday, Malaysia's Health Minister Subramaniam Sathasivam said Kim Jong-nam died within 20 minutes of the poisoning as the dose given to him was so high. Subramaniam said it required only 10 milligram of VX for it to be lethal "so I presume that the amount of dose that went in is more than that," according to the Associated Press.

The Malay government has implicated Pyongyang for the murder, although the reclusive regime has denied all involvement causing a diplomatic row between the two countries.

Local authorities also said that people who came into contact with Kim Jong-nam have all been checked and none have become sick, and that there has been no reported cases of nerve agent poisoning at the busy airport.

One of the women who has been detained for smearing the nerve agent on Kim's face did vomit while riding a taxi right after the attack but has since shown no signs of illness.

VX, one of the most toxic chemical substances in the world, is an oily, amber-colored liquid that is tasteless and odorless, according to the website of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Malay law enforcement and health authorities have taken flak for conducting a sweep of the airport 13 days after the murder, which could have exposed innocent bystanders to the nerve agent.

Related to the ongoing investigation, local police said later in the day that they raided a condo that was rented by the four North Koreans being sought in connection to the high-profile murder.

Police said in the course of the search they identified chemical substances that could be linked to VX. They said that no definitive announcement can be made regarding what has been found at the condo since they have been sent to a lab for thorough testing.

The latest announcement may indicate that the North Koreans, who have all fled the country, could have made VX in Malaysia, although it may be more likely that the banned nerve agent was secretly brought in from abroad.

Special personnel wearing protective clothes and masks operate equipment at the departure lobby of Kuala Lumpur International Airport Terminal 2 in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 26, 2017, looking for any trace of poison. The detection operation was made after VX nerve agent, a lethal chemical weapon, was found on the body of Kim Jong-nam, the murdered half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. (Yonhap) Special personnel wearing protective clothes and masks operate equipment at the departure lobby of Kuala Lumpur International Airport Terminal 2 in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 26, 2017, looking for any trace of poison. The detection operation was made after VX nerve agent, a lethal chemical weapon, was found on the body of Kim Jong-nam, the murdered half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. (Yonhap)

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