An Indonesian woman held in the assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s exiled half-brother claims she thought the liquid poison she used to snuff out his life was some kind of baby oil.
Siti Aisyah, 25, and her Vietnamese accomplice, Doan Thi Huong, 28, reportedly worked as escorts in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, before they were enlisted to poison Kim Jong-nam with VX, a nerve agent listed by the UN as a weapon of mass destruction.
Aisyah says she was paid $90 to put a poison-soaked cloth in Kim’s face in the Malaysian capital’s airport on Feb. 13. She thought she was taking part in a “Candid Camera”-style TV prank, she told cops.
“She didn’t know that it was poison,” Andreano Erwin, Indonesia’s deputy ambassador to Malaysia, said after meeting with Aisyah.
The Indonesian woman also claims not to know Huong, who separately met with representatives from the Vietnamese embassy. Vietnam later said Huong also believed she was taking part in a prank.
Malaysian police are skeptical of the claims of naiveté. Experts say the women must have taken precautions so the nerve agent wouldn’t kill them. VX, an odorless chemical with the consistency of motor oil, is an extremely powerful poison. A quantity no larger than a few grains of salt is enough to kill someone.
In airport surveillance footage, the women appear to smear something onto Kim’s face with their hands before walking away in separate directions. Kim died later at a hospital.
There were reports Huong vomited while she was in police custody. Vietnamese officials said Saturday she was in stable condition.
Workers in hazmat suits early Sunday swept the Kuala Lumpur airport for traces of the deadly chemical, authorities said. No other travelers have been reported ill in the days since Jong-nam was killed.
Police confirmed that a raid on a condominium on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur was related to the probe. Abdul Samah Mat, the police chief leading the investigation, said samples from the apartment were being tested for chemical traces.
The investigation has unleashed a diplomatic fight between Malaysia and North Korea, which is suspected to be behind the killing.
Police said they would issue an arrest warrant for Hyon Kwang-song, a second secretary at the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, if he won’t cooperate in the investigation.
Hyon is one of seven North Koreans police want to question, including four who were at the airport at the time and are believed to have fled to their home country.
Malaysia hasn’t directly accused the North Korean government of being behind the attack. But the likelihood of North Korean involvement rose when authorities determined Kim Jong-nam was killed by VX nerve agent, which is banned under an international treaty North Korea never signed.
Experts say the VX was almost certainly produced in a sophisticated state weapons laboratory.
Kim Jong-nam was not an obvious political threat to Kim Jong-un. But the North Korean despot may have seen his older brother as a potential rival, even though Jong-nam had lived in exile for years.
With Post Wire Services
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