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Archive for the ‘ASSASSINATIONS’ Category


An Indonesian suspect in the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s half-brother says she was paid the equivalent of $117 to help apply a baby oil-like liquid to his face.

Siti Aisyah insisted to an Indonesian diplomat who met her in jail that she believed she was taking part in a prank.

Malaysian police have revealed that nerve agent, which is classified as a chemical weapon under international laws, was dabbed on the eyes of 46-year-old Kim Jong-nam. He sought medical help after the attack at Kuala Lumpur airport on February 13 but died shortly afterwards on the way to hospital.

Last week police rejected reports that 25-year-old Ms Siti and 28 year-old Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong believed they were taking part in the television show, Just for Laughs, and said they repeatedly trained for the act.

But Andreano Erwin, the deputy chief of Indonesia’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur, said Ms Siti told him during a 30-minute meeting that she did not know the liquid on her hands was the world’s most potent nerve agent.

“She just said she was given some kind of oil, like baby oil,” Mr Erwin told reporters.

“She didn’t know about the poison – that is the answer from her.”

According to Mr Erwin, Ms Siti said the men who asked her to carry out the act had names like ‘James’ and ‘Chang.

Kim Jong-nam, pictured at Narita Airport in Japan in 2001 image

She thought they were Japanese or Korean.

CCTV cameras captured one of the women who confronted Mr Kim walking hurriedly away, and slightly turning back to look at him. She had been wearing a distinctive white “LOL” shirt.


Recently, in an airport in Kuala Lumpur, two women approached Kim Jong Nam—estranged half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un—from behind. They swiped what the victim described to nearby customer service agents as a “wet cloth” across his face, and fled. Shortly after, he was dead.

Now, Malaysian authorities say they’ve identified the substance that took Jong Nam’s life: VX, a nerve agent that the United Nations classifies as a weapon of mass destruction. And while it’s not an entirely uncommon substance—or particularly difficult to produce—its apparent use marks a troubling break from international norms. And if officials manage to link it back to North Korea, it could have serious consequences.

Special VX

If you’re already familiar with VX agent, it’s likely because of seminal 90s action flick The Rock, in which a disgruntled Ed Harris brings over a dozen VX-laden warheads along with him to seize Alcatraz.

VX doesn’t work quite the way The Rock depicts it. Specifically, contact with it doesn’t cause human skin to bubble and sear. But it plays havoc with the human nervous system. Like other nerve agents, VX interferes with the signals that pass between your brain and your muscles. “If you have a nerve impulse that tells a muscle to contract, you have to turn off the impulse. Otherwise the muscle will stay contracted,” says Matthew Meselson, a geneticist at Harvard and member of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation national advisory board. “The one that primarily kills is a spasm of the diaphragm, so you can’t breathe. You die of asphyxiation.”

VX can work through skin contact or respiration, and while it’s part of a broader class of nerve agents that all accomplish roughly the same effect, experts consider it to be especially dangerous, even among banned substances. “It’s heavier than other nerve agents, so it settles on an environment and can be persistent on the ground. If it was used in larger quantities, it could make an area non-usable,” says Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security.

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As the Kim Jong-nam incident showed, though, smaller quantities are also dangerous. “Even a tiny drop is lethal,” Inglesby says.

And while an antidote exists—atropine, which unlocks the muscles that VX causes to seize up—the nerve agent works so quickly that it’s no use unless there’s a hypodermic needle on scene.

So dangerous is the stuff, in fact, that all but a handful of countries agreed to destroy whatever stockpiles they had of VX as part of the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993. One of the handful of holdouts: North Korea.

The Red Line

In 1995, Japan’s Aum Shinrikyo cult turned the nerve agent on a small number of its members, whom leaders believed to be police informants. On a larger scale, VX was one of the chemical weapons deployed in the Iran-Iraq war. The Kim Jong Nam case, though, would be the first VX assassination on record, and the first time chemical weapons were used to that end since a ricin pellet—fired from an umbrella gun—took Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov’s life in 1978.

“That this particular chemical weapon would be used in a political assassination in a third country is very alarming. It’s a red line,” says Ingelsby. “It should be considered a new threshold that’s been crossed in terms of unconventional weapons.”

Those norms matter. After decades without any nation deploying chemical weapons, Syria used sarin and chlorine gas. If a nation-state such as North Korea uses VX once, they or other actors may well do it again.

‘It should be considered a new threshold that’s been crossed in terms of unconventional weapons.’ Dr. Tom Inglesby, Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security

That’s all conditional for a reason. While North Korea maintains a VX stockpile, and Kim Jong Un may well have considered his half-brother a threat to his rule, there’s no direct link between the VX airport incident and the hermit kingdom. And there may well never be, at least from the weapon of choice.

“It’s not very hard to produce, so it’s doubtful that the specific use can be chemical-traced back to North Korea,” says Sigmund Gartner, director of the Penn State School of International Affairs. Any decent organic chemist can make the stuff.

Meselson also says that it may not have been VX at all; if it was, it’s remarkable that the two women survived the attack as well.

All of which underscores how critical the next several days of investigation will be. If it turns out to be a random or untraceable act, it may at least prove to be an isolated incident. Should a direct link to North Korea exist, the world will find itself in potentially dangerous, uncharted waters.

“The political reaction should be very strong internationally, once all the facts are in,” says Ingelsby. “Responsible countries around the world should make it very clear that this kind of behavior is unacceptable.”

Unfortunately, that’s the thing about red lines. Once you cross them, there’s no going back.



Malaysian police today said that a VX nerve agent was used to kill the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s leader in Malaysia last week. Here’s what we know about the death of Kim Jong Nam.

moments-before-Kim-Jong-Nam's-death image
Moments before Kim Jong Nam’s death

Doan-Thi-Duong-grabbed-&-poisoned-Kim-Jong-Nam image www.crimefiles (1)

Doan-Thi-Duong-grabbed-&-poisoned-Kim-Jong-Nam image www.crimefiles (2)

Doan Thi Duong
Main attacker who grabbed & poisoned Kim Jong Nam
nerve-agent-action-diagram image

The banned chemical weapon action above

Authorities have already detained a number of suspects in the case of Kim Jong Nam. See full graphic on the murder




Moscow: Two men have appeared in court in Moscow charged with the murder of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, after another suspect blew himself up with a grenade as police surrounded him in Chechnya.

Zaur Dadayev and Anzor Gubashev, both from Russia’s troubled North Caucasus region, appeared at the Russian capital’s Basmanny Court, where the judge said Mr Dadayev had confessed to the crime under questioning

Zaur Dadayev, charged with the murder of Boris Nemtsov, inside a defendants' cage in Moscow.

Zaur Dadayev, charged with the murder of Boris Nemtsov, inside a defendants’ cage in Moscow. Photo: Reuters

Three other men, Shagid Gubashev, Tamerlan Eskerkhanov and Khamzat Bakhayev, were formally arrested as suspected accomplices. All five were remanded in custody.

The five men were frogmarched into Moscow’s Basmanny court on Sunday, forced by masked security officers gripping their bound arms to walk doubled over, a Reuters reporter at the court said. They stood in metal cages in the courtroom as television crews were ushered in to film them.

During the hearing, the latter three men tried to hide their faces with their jackets, while Mr Dadayev looked defiantly at the cameras. No motive for the killing was suggested.

Tamerlan Eskerkhanov was arrested as a suspected accomplice in the killing.

Tamerlan Eskerkhanov was arrested as a suspected accomplice in the killing. Photo: Reuters

A judge ruled that all five should be held in custody and said that one of them, Mr Dadayev, had admitted his involvement in the killing when questioned by investigators.

“Dadayev’s involvement in committing this crime is confirmed by, apart from his own confession, the totality of evidence gathered as part of this criminal case,” Judge Natalia Mushnikova told the court.

In Chechnya, a sixth suspect, Bislan Shavanov, blew himself up with a grenade as police tried to detain him, Russian media reported. Officers were said to have surrounded him at an apartment in Grozny on Saturday evening, when he was killed by a hand grenade that exploded as he tossed it towards them.

Shagid Gubashev and Ramzan Bakhayev hide their faces at court on Sunday.

Shagid Gubashev and Ramzan Bakhayev hide their faces at court on Sunday. Photo: Reuters

Mr Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was shot dead as he walked on a bridge near the Kremlin with his girlfriend on February 27.

The two accused men were reportedly detained in the republic of Ingushetia, which borders Chechnya. Officials suggested that they were suspected hit men and that the masterminds behind the murder were still at large.

The main question many Russians want answered is who ordered the brazen assassination of Mr Nemtsov, the first killing of a such an important political figure in many years. Given the fact that the shooting took place within sight of the Kremlin, among the most heavily guarded sites in Moscow, opposition figures have accused the government of complicity in the crime, which it has denied.

Mourners lay flowers and candles at the spot where Boris Nemtsov was gunned down.

Mourners lay flowers and candles at the spot where Boris Nemtsov was gunned down. Photo: AP

Mr Nemtsov was one of the government’s most persistent critics and was due to publish a report that he said would reveal the involvement of the Russian military in the war in Ukraine. The Kremlin has called Russians fighting in Ukraine “volunteers”.

The court hearings were given extensive coverage on state-controlled media, and presented as proof the authorities are conducting a thorough investigation. But associates of Mr Nemtsov say they will not be satisfied unless prosecutors track down whoever orchestrated the killing, rather than just the people who pulled the trigger.

There was no word from investigators on who the suspects were alleged to have been working for. The judge presiding over the hearings said investigators were still looking for others they believe were involved in the killing.

In the North Caucasus, the acting head of the Security Council in Ingushetia, Albert Barakhoev, said Mr Dadayev had worked as a law enforcement officer, serving as deputy commander of a battalion of Interior Ministry troops assigned to fight Islamist insurgents. It was unclear whether he was still with the unit.

The other main suspect, Mr Kubashev, had worked for a private security company in Moscow as a guard in a hypermarket, according to Mr Barakhoev. Both are between 30 and 35 years old, he said.

Ajmani Dadayev, the mother of Mr Dadayev, told state television that the Kubashev brothers were her nephews. The suspects had worked in Moscow for years without any problems, she said.

Chechnya, a mainly Muslim region, has seen violent separatist insurgencies over the past two decades. It is now firmly under the control of its leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, a former rebel who changed sides and pledges loyalty to Putin.

Telegraph, London, New York Times, Reuters





Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov speaks during an opposition protest in central Moscow in December 2011.

Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov speaks during an opposition protest in central Moscow in December 2011. Photo: Reuters

Nemtsov’s close associate and opposition leader Ilya Yashin called the deadly attack on his friend “a political murder.”

“Boris was the most outspoken critic of Putin and the most charismatic leader of the opposition and his dead body found 100 yards from the Kremlin is a clear message to all the opposition activists and all people who do not support the Kremlin,” Yashin said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “This act of political terror is clearly aimed to stun and horrify the opposition to the Putin regime on the eve of the march we will now hold as a mourning march as originally planned on Sunday.”

Nemtsov ran afoul of Putin’s Kremlin administration years ago and had been active with the opposition coalition PARNAS.

Russia Today television, a pro-Kremlin mouthpiece, said on Twitter that the slaying “could be a provocation,” suggesting that the opposition was responsible for the killing to tarnish the Putin administration.

United States President Barack Obama condemned the “brutal murder” and called for a full investigation into the killing.

Mr Obama said he admired Nemtsov’s “courageous dedication to the struggle against corruption in Russia.”

Other pro-democracy allies and world leaders who knew the gregarious and energetic politician expressed horror over the killing that many were inclined to see as an assassination.

“Shock. Boris has been killed. It’s impossible to believe,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said via Twitter. “I’m certain the killers will be punished. Sooner or later.”

Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion and another outspoken opponent of Mr Putin, linked Nemtsov’s killing with other violence attributed to the Kremlin and its enforcers.

“(Journalist Anna) Politkovskaya was gunned down. MH17 was shot out of the sky. Now Boris is dead. As always, Kremlin will blame opposition, or CIA, whatever,” Mr Kasparov said via Twitter.

In an interview last year, Nemtsov laid out a bleak forecast of Russia’s political future under Mr Putin, who engineered constitutional changes before his 2012 reelection that should allow him to remain at the Kremlin’s helm until 2024.

Putin’s primary goal as Russian leader, Nemtsov argued, is not to build a modern, European state and vibrant middle class but “to keep power and money by all means,” through oppression when necessary or by highlighting invented threats to Russia from abroad.

“He has $500 billion in Central Bank reserves, 100 percent control of television and authoritarian laws that allow the administration to strike anyone from the list of candidates,” Nemtsov said of the prospects of Putin being voted out of office in the next election, in 2018.

TNS, Reuters


Henry Sapiecha



James McVay has been sentenced to death for a 2011 killing he said was part of a plot to assassinate President Barack Obama.

James McVay has been sentenced to death for a 2011 killing he said was part of a plot to assassinate President Barack Obama. Photo:

Sioux Falls, South Dakota: A judge has sentenced a man to death for killing a woman as part of what he said was a plot to assassinate US President Barack Obama.

The hearing on Tuesday formalised the unanimous vote of a jury to sentence 44-year-old James McVay to death. McVay would have been sentenced to life in prison without parole if the jury’s decision had not been unanimous.

McVay pleaded guilty, but mentally ill, to murder in the 2011 stabbing of 75-year-old Maybelle Schein. McVay said he killed Schein and stole her car as part of his plan to drive to Washington and kill the president. He was later arrested in Madison, Wisconsin.

Schein’s family declined to speak during the hearing. Prosecutors, McVay and his defence team also did not comment.

“I don’t have a lot to say here,” said Circuit Judge Peter Lieberman. “This is a situation where a jury’s verdict has a lot more weight than what I could say.”

Public defender Traci Smith filed a motion hours before the hearing asking Judge Lieberman to vacate the sentence based on remarks made by the prosecution during closing arguments last month.

Ms Smith argued that closing arguments about protecting the community “inflamed the passions” of the jury, creating a bias against McVay, the Argus Leader newspaper reported. Judge Lieberman rejected the motion, saying the jury reached a decision after a thoughtful process.

McVay’s sentence will be automatically reviewed by the South Dakota Supreme Court.


Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a Kuwaiti who attended university in the United States, is the self-proclaimed architect of the September 11, 2001 attacks and a host of other anti-Western plots.

The Pentagon announced charges on Wednesday against Mohammed and four other alleged 9/11 plotters, clearing the way for a high-profile trial long delayed by a debate in the United States over whether they should be prosecuted in a civilian or military court.

Known simply as KSM by US officials, the 46-year-old trained engineer was regarded as one of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden’s most trusted and intelligent lieutenants before his March 2003 capture in Pakistan.

Facing trial ... Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Facing trial … Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Photo: Reuters

In addition to felling the twin towers, Mohammed claims to have personally beheaded US journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002 with his “blessed right hand” and to have helped in the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing that killed six people.

Among several plots he admitted to interrogators that failed to materialise were assassinations of the late Pope John Paul II and former US presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

Mohammed was born on April 24, 1965 to a Pakistani family living in the conservative Gulf sheikhdom of Kuwait but his roots lie in Baluchistan, a restive Pakistani region bordering Afghanistan.

He claims to have joined the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Muslim militant group, when he was 16, beginning a life-long infatuation with violent jihad.

In 1983, Mohammed moved to the United States for his studies and graduated from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University with a degree in mechanical engineering three years later.

The following year he travelled to Afghanistan and fought for the Islamic mujahideen against the Soviet invasion but it was not until a botched 1995 plot to blow up US airliners over the Pacific, known as Operation Bojinka, that he achieved notoriety.

Safely out of reach in Qatar by the time the Philippine authorities unravelled the plot, KSM was thought to have participated in the planning of an attack for the first time, having only contributed money to his nephew Ramzi Yousef’s 1993 car-bombing at the World Trade Centre.

Although he and bin Laden fought together in Afghanistan in the late 1980s, it was not until 10 years later that they forged a close relationship and Mohammed allegedly began plotting what would later become the September 11 attacks.

Most of what we know about Mohammed has come from interrogation transcripts released by the Pentagon and there are bound to be questions at his trial over the harsh procedures used to obtain that information.

He is known to have been “waterboarded” or subjected to simulated drowning 183 times during his years in US custody, a technique which rights groups have denounced as torture.

In reported confessions released previously, Mohammed was quoted as claiming to be the “military operational commander” for all al-Qaeda foreign operations.

“I’m not making myself a hero, when I said I was responsible for this or that,” he was quoted as saying in the transcript.

“I’m looking to be a martyr for long time,” he told a hearing at Guantanamo in June 2008, the first time he had been seen in public since his 2003 arrest in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

He was handed over almost immediately to US agents who held him in secret prisons for over three years before sending him to Guantanamo in September 2006.

Photos released by the US military at the time showed a wild-eyed, dishevelled man in a white T-shirt, but more recent pictures have shown him with a long black and grey beard and a white turban.


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