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'Malaysia airport declared safe from toxic nerve agent'

Malaysia airport declared safe from toxic nerve agent
Malaysian police on Sunday declared as safe the Kuala Lumpur international airport, where VX nerve agent was used to kill Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Police chief Abdul Samah Mat said that a joint team of police, firefighters, and atomic energy experts analysed Terminal 2, where Kim Jong-nam was attacked, but did not find traces of VX nerve agent, considered as a weapn of mass destruction, Efe news reported.

"Based on our screenings, we have come to three conclusions that there are no hazardous materials detected, the airport is free from any form of contamination, and the airport is declared a safe zone," Samah Mat told the media.

He added that people who were exposed to the nerve agent have also been examined and no remains of the chemical weapon have been found.

Authorities on February 23 raided an apartment rented by four North Korean suspects, who fled after the crime, and sent items from the flat to be scanned for dangerous substances. The results are still pending.

VX, used in the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s, is an oily, colourless liquid, and is considered one of the most toxic nerve agents in the world.

Few countries have access to this chemical-including the US, China and North Korea-which has prompted authorities to investigate whether it was brought from overseas.

Kim Jong-nam, the older half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, died on February 13 after being approached at Kuala Lumpur airport by two women who allegedly sprayed his face with VX. He died minutes later on his way to hospital.

'Kim suffered painful death within 20 minutes of attack'

Kim Jong-Nam was dead within 20 minutes of being attacked and would have suffered a "very painful death" as his major organs shut down, Malaysia's health minister said on Sunday.

The estranged half-brother of the North Korean leader was killed with lethal nerve agent VX, police have revealed, after he was ambushed at Kuala Lumpur airport on February 13.Two women can be seen shoving something into Kim's face in leaked CCTV footage of the brazen assassination before he seeks help.

"He died in the ambulance. He fainted in the clinic," Health Minister S Subramaniam told reporters."From the time of the onset (of the attack) he died within 15 to 20 minutes."

Autopsy results suggested the 45-year-old died from "very serious paralysis" due to a lethal nerve agent, Subramaniam said earlier Sunday.

Police are holding two women suspected of staging the attack as well as a North Korean man.

They want to speak to seven other North Koreans including a senior embassy official, but four of the suspects fled Malaysia on the day of the murder.

VX is so deadly it is listed by the UN as a weapon of mass destruction and overnight the scene of the killing in the budget terminal of Kuala Lumpur International Airport was swept by civil defence personnel in hazmat suits before being declared safe.

"VX only requires 10mg to be absorbed into the system to be lethal," Subramaniam said.

"The absorption level was so rapid that within a few minutes the guy had symptoms."

Nerve agents prevent the proper operation of an enzyme that acts as the body's "off switch" for glands and muscles.

Without that switch, glands and muscles are constantly being stimulated, eventually tire and become unable to sustain breathing."The muscle goes into a state of permanent contraction," Subramaniam said, adding the dose was "so high" in this case the heart and lungs would have been rapidly affected.

Police had cordoned off parts of the airport after authorities pledged to check all locations the female suspects were known to have visited.

But the delay puzzled some travellers.

Student Hariz Syafiq, 21, who was due to take a domestic flight later, said: "Yes, I'm worried a bit. Why didn't they quarantine the airport? "It's a bit strange." Both women suspected of carrying out the attack insisted they thought they were taking part in a prank video, although Malaysian police have said they knew what they were doing.
Agencies

Agencies

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