(A weekly digest from the internet on chemical and biological warfare issues. Emphasis is on incidents and perspectives, but inclusion of an item does not equal endorsement or agreement with the contents. This issue covers items collected between 20 – 26 February 2017.)
Assassination of Kim Jong-Nam
- Video of Poisoning of Kim Jong-Nam Calls Suspect’s Story into Question (David Bixenspan, 21 February 2017): The suspect in the chemical attack-murder of Kim Jong-Nam is claiming she was told she was shooting a TV prank show and had no idea she wasn’t spraying him with water. The newly released video of the attacked suggests otherwise.
- Kim Jong-nam killing: the arrested, the wanted, and people of interest (Oliver Holmes, 22 February 2017): Four people of different nationalities have been arrested and seven North Koreans are wanted in connection with the attack on the exiled half-brother of the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un.
- North Korea denies it was behind death of Kim Jong Un’s half-brother in Malaysia
(Hyung-Jin Kim, 22 February 2017): North Korea denied that its agents masterminded the assassination of the half brother of leader Kim Jong Un, saying a Malaysian investigation into the death of one of its nationals is full of “holes and contradictions.”
- Assassins wiped toxin on Kim Jong Un’s brother, police say (Associated Press, 22 February 2017): The women suspected of fatally poisoning a scion of North Korea’s ruling family were trained to coat their hands with toxic chemicals then wipe them on his face, police said Wednesday, announcing they were now seeking a North Korean diplomat in connection with the attack.
- Suspects in Kim Murder Had Poisoned Hands, Police Say (Eileen Ng, 22 February 2017): Malaysian police say two women suspected of fatally poisoning a scion of North Korea’s ruling family were trained to coat their hands with toxic chemicals and then wipe them on his face.
- Cops say detected bids to break into mortuary holding Kim Jong-nam body (Kamles Kumar, 22 February 2017): Police deployed tactical personnel at Hospital Kuala Lumpur after they found signs of attempted intrusions into the morgue where the body of Kim Jong-nam is being kept.
- North Korea demands ‘sinister’ Malaysia stop investigating Kim Jong-nam death (Oliver Holmes, 23 February 2017): North Korea has lashed out at Malaysia over the death of Kim Jong-nam, accusing it of having a “sinister purpose” and collaborating with South Korea, which has said Pyongyang agents assassinated Kim Jong-un’s half-brother.
- Kim Jong-nam Was Killed by VX Nerve Agent, Malaysians Say (Richard C. Paddock and Choe Sang-Hun, 23 February 2017): The poison used to kill Kim Jong-nam was VX nerve agent, a substance listed as a chemical weapon, the Malaysian police announced Friday.
- North Korean Leader’s Brother Killed Using VX Nerve Agent (A. Ananthalakshmi and Liz Lee, 23 February 2017): VX, the chemical used in the airport murder Kim Jong Nam, is one of the deadliest chemical weapons created by man.
- How the Hit Team Came Together to Kill Kim Jong Nam (Ben Otto and Yantoultra Ngui, 23 February 2017): The hit squad assembled quickly from three countries and practiced at least twice at posh shopping malls before executing their brazen assault at the airport.
- What poison could have killed Kim’s brother? (AFP-JIJI, 23 February 2017): What toxin could have acted so fast? Pierre Champy, a chemist at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, examines how the murder could have been carried out.
- What Type Of Poison Can Cause The Quick And Painful Death Of Kim Jong-nam? (Malaysian Digest, 23 February 2017): A toxicologist at Australia’s Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine said that he is also wondering what substance could have been used to kill the victim so quickly without harming the women who deployed it.
- Nerve agent was used to kill North Korean leader’s half brother, police say (Jonathan Kaiman and Matt Stiles, 23 February 2017): The announcement that police found traces of the nerve agent on Kim’s face has raised the stakes in a political murder mystery that has implicated several suspects.
- Kim Jong-nam killing: ‘VX nerve agent’ found on his face (BBC World, 24 February 2017): Malaysian toxicology reports indicate he was attacked using VX nerve agent.
- Qu’est-ce que le “VX”, le poison ultra toxique qui a tué Kim Jong-Nam? (Juliette Pousson avec AFP, 24 February 2017): French article on the nature of VX.
- Was Kim Jong-nam killed by VX nerve gas? Doesn’t look like it (Debora MacKenzie, 24 February 2017): Malaysian authorities announced today that they have identified VX nerve gas on the face and eyes of Kim Jong Nam. Chemical weapons experts are mystified.
- Kim Jong-nam killed by VX nerve agent, say Malaysian police (Oliver Holmes, Tom Phillips and agencies, 24 February 2017): Kim Jong-nam was killed using the highly toxic liquid nerve agent VX, Malaysian police have said. The findings followed a preliminary analysis of swabs taken from Kim’s face and eyes.
- What Is VX Nerve Agent? A Deadly Weapon, Rarely Seen (Gerry Doyle, 24 February 2017): The Malaysian authorities said on Friday that Kim Jong-nam had been killed by VX nerve agent applied to his face. The substance, listed as a chemical weapon, was kept for decades in the arsenals of many militaries, including that of the United States.
- Kim Jong Nam probe: Chemical weapon VX nerve agent used, Malaysia police say (Channel News Asia, 24 February 2017; updated 25 February 2017): The Inspector General of Malaysia Khalid Abu Bakar said in a press release that the Centre for Chemical Weapons identified the substance in its preliminary analysis. The police said swabs were taken from the eye and the face of the dead North Korean national.
- North Korea’s use of nerve agent in murder sends a deliberate signal to foes (Julian Borger, 24 February 2017): Kim Jong-un’s regime claims not to possess any chemical weapons, but the use of VX nerve agent to kill Kim Jong-nam could be designed to deter defectors.
- What to make of Kim Jong-Nam (Gwyn Winfield, 24 February 2017): The signs and symptoms of an organophosphate are such that diagnosis would be quite swift, a couple of doses of atropine would see Jong-nam back on his feet in no time. VX would also leave tell-tale clues, traces that would quickly be detected with conventional chemical detectors. The delay in announcing the identity of the agent clearly indicated that something esoteric had been used.
- New questions as cops say chemical weapon killed Kim Jong Nam (CBS News, 24 February 2017): It took Malaysian police 11 days to put a name to the substance the two women smeared onto Kim’s face as he waited at a check-in point in the airport terminal. It killed him in less than an hour.
- For Kim Jong Nam, a sad ending to a lonely life (Anna Fifield, 24 February 2017): Kim Jong Nam’s painful demise is a blow for the United States and South Korea, which have lost a potential source of intelligence on the world’s most secretive regime. They have also lost a potential replacement for his half brother Kim Jong Un.
- In Kim Jong-Nam’s Death, North Korea Lets Loose A Weapon Of Mass Destruction (Richard C. Paddock, Choe Sang-Hun And Nicholas Wade, 24 February 2017): If Mr. Kim’s two assassins had each applied one component of VX, this would explain why two people were needed, how they survived the attack, and perhaps why it took 15 minutes or more for Mr. Kim to die. The woman who applied the second compound would have risked exposing herself to the first component, which could explain why one of the women became ill and began vomiting after the attack.
- Banned chemical weapon VX is potent killer that lingers (Margie Mason, 24 February 2017): No passengers, airport workers or medical personnel who tended to Kim Jong Nam at the clinic or hospital have been identified as having been sickened. Tens of thousands of passengers have passed through the terminal at Kuala Lumpur’s airport, used by budget carriers such as AirAsia, since the apparent assassination was carried out a week and a half ago.
- Chemical weapon VX nerve agent killed North Korean leader’s half brother: Malaysian police (Rozanna Latiff and Emily Chow, 24 February 2017): Malaysian police were investigating whether the VX – which is believed to be the most toxic known nerve agent and is banned globally except for research – was brought into the country or made there.
- VX attack is North Korea’s deadly signal to enemies (Sam Jones, 25 February 2017): Although it denies responsibility, few doubt the North Korean regime is responsible — and is flashing signals to its enemies.
- Malaysia awaits lab tests after nerve agent used in airport (By Eileen Ng, 25 February 2017): One day after Malaysia revealed that VX nerve agent was used in a bizarre killing at the Kuala Lumpur airport, police said Saturday that they have raided a condominium and were awaiting lab results on what they found.
- Kim Jong-nam killing: Suspect ‘was paid $90 for baby oil prank’ (BBC, 25 February 2017): An Indonesian woman arrested for the murder of the half-brother of North Korea’s leader has said she was given 400 Malaysian ringgits ($90) to carry out a prank, according to Indonesian embassy officials.
- North Korea-U.S. talks called off after death of Kim Jong Un’s half brother (Anna Fifield, 25 February 2017): Talks between North Korean diplomats and former American officials, scheduled to be held in New York next week, have been canceled following allegations that the Pyongyang regime planned the attack that used a chemical weapon to kill leader Kim Jong Un’s half brother.
- The worst-case scenario of the apparent nerve toxin murder of Kim Jong Nam (Philip Bump, 25 February 2017): Consider all of the people getting ready for some of those 199 flights. Each of them was possibly within 100 yards of a rare, deadly nerve agent that might have made its way through the airport until the moment that it was swiped on Kim’s face. Depending on how the VX got onto that cloth, and where, and how careful the assassins were in applying and transporting it, that danger could remain.
- Malaysia says airport safe, autopsy shows nerve agent effect (Eileen Ng, 25 February 2017): Malaysia’s health minister said Sunday autopsy results suggested a nerve agent caused “very serious paralysis” that killed the exiled half brother of North Korea’s leader, as police completed a sweep of the budget terminal where he was poisoned and declared it safe of any toxin.
Chemical warfare in Syria
- Red Line Redux: How Putin Tore Up Obama’s 2013 Syria Deal (Aron Lund, 3 February 2017): The so-called “red line” episode in September 2013, when, in a last-minute decision, President Barack Obama called off U.S. air strikes in Syria, has continued to shape his legacy. Instead of striking the Syrian government in retaliation for a nerve gas attack near Damascus, Obama took Russian President Vladimir Putin up on an offer to peacefully dismantle the Syrian chemical weapons program and craft a United Nations resolution to make sure no gas attacks ever occurred in Syria again.
- U.N. Security Council to vote on Syria sanctions over chemical weapons -diplomat (Reuters, 23 February 2017): The draft resolution also seeks to ban the sale or supply of helicopters to the Syrian government and to blacklist 10 government and related entities involved in the development and production of chemical weapons and the missiles to deliver them.
- UN eyes Syria sanctions for chemical weapon use (AFP, 24 February 2017): The UN Security Council is likely to vote next week on a draft resolution that would slap sanctions on Syria over the use of chemical weapons, but Russia is almost certain to veto the measure, diplomats said.
- Trump Administration Poised to Collide With Russia Over Syrian Chemical Weapons (Colum Lynch, 24 February 2017): The Trump administration is headed toward a diplomatic confrontation with Moscow at the United Nations, as the United States, Britain, and France pressed for the passage of a resolution sanctioning Syria’s use of chemical weapons in the face of a certain Russian veto.
- UN Syria sanctions vote sought next week; Russia vows veto (Jennifer Peltz, 24 February 2017): Nations urging the U.N. to ban helicopter sales to Syria and impose other sanctions over chemical weapons use are seeking a Security Council vote next week.
- Russia Vows to Veto Sanctions on Syria Over Chemical Weapons (Rodrigo Campos, 24 February 2017): Russia is ready to veto a draft resolution calling for sanctions against Syria over the use of chemical weapons on civilians, a top Russian diplomat to the United Nations said on Friday, prompting a rebuke from the United States.
- Syria: Draft Resolution Imposing Sanctions Regarding the Use and Production of Chemical Weapons (What’s In Blue, 25 February 2017): Early next week, the Security Council is scheduled to vote on a draft resolution establishing a sanctions regime, a committee and a panel of experts to ensure accountability for the use and production of chemical weapons in Syria.
- Georgia man charged with possession of ricin, a deadly toxin (Associated Press, 23 February 2017): The person was arrested Feb. 2 after driving himself to a hospital and saying he’d been exposed to ricin. His car tested positive for ricin.
- Opinion: Australia can not ignore threat of biological terrorism (Des Houghton, 24 February 2017): Comment building on remarks by Jim Thompson, the chief biosecurity officer for Queensland, and Bill Gates last week.
- North Korea has large chemical weapons stockpile: Seoul (AFP, 24 February 2017): North Korea has up to 5,000 tonnes of chemical weapons, South Korean experts said.
- Eye on N Korea’s chemical stockpile after nerve gas shocker in Malaysia (FMT Reporters, 24 February 2017): The revelation that Kim Jong Nam was killed with the deadly VX nerve agent has again turned the spotlight on North Korea’s chemical warfare capabilities.
- VX Nerve Agent: The Deadly Weapon Engineered in Secret (Carl Engelking, 24 February 2017): In January 1958, two medical officers at Porton Down, Britain’s military science facility, exposed their forearms to 50-microgram droplets of a substance called VX, which was a new, fast-acting nerve agent that could kill by seeping through the skin.
UNSC Resolution 1540
- UN Security Council document S/2017/126 (10 February 2017): Letter to the UNSC President outlining the sixteenth programme of work of the Committee for the period from 1 February 2017 to 31 January 2018.
Victims of chemical warfare
- Skin on Fire: A Firsthand Account of a VX Attack (Alastair Gale, 24 February 2017): In Tokyo in 1995, Hiroyuki Nagaoka was attacked with the nerve agent that police say killed Kim Jong Nam.
Terrorism with CBW
- Israeli Arab with ISIS ties charged with planning sarin gas attack ( Israel Hayom, 21 February 2017): The Central District State Prosecutor’s Office on Monday issued an indictment against 35-year-old Anas Haj Yihya, from the town of Tayibe in central Israel, for planning terrorist attacks against Israelis on behalf of the Islamic State group.
Riot control and incapacitating agents
- Paris protests: Students tear-gassed by police (BBC, 23 February 2017): Police have fired tear gas at Paris students who blockaded 16 high schools in protest against the alleged police rape of a young black man.
- Kashmir unrest: Crowd control with least collateral damage is goal, assures CRPF (ANI, 25 February 2017): Chilli shells were there in the past also, now we have a chemical variant of the same thing, which will also be used.
- Israel military fire tear gas to disperse Lebanese protest (Associated Press, 25 February 2017): Israel’s military fired tear gas across the border into Lebanon on Saturday, breaking up a small Lebanese protest against cameras installed there.
- SOCOM Will Soon Lead the Pentagon’s Anti-WMD Efforts. Here’s What It Still Needs (Daniel M. Gerstein, 10 February 2017): U.S. Special Operations Command will soon begin coordinating the Pentagon’s efforts to counter weapons of mass destruction, which means the command is going to need new kinds of expertise and capacity.
- BARDA and Project Bioshield Progress Report Details Core National Security Role (Amesh A. Adalja, 17 February 2017): Project Bioshield, and the related Biomedical Advanced Research Development Authority (BARDA), recently published a 10-year progress report on their efforts in this field in Clinical Infectious Diseases.
- Patient at Fort Wood was treated for smallpox vaccine reaction (KSPR, 21 February 2017): A patient at the Fort Leonard Wood hospital recently suffered a reaction to the smallpox vaccine. The article discusses the severity of possible reactions to the smallpox vaccine.
- FEMA counterterrorism training center suspected lethal toxin mix-up years ago (Alison Young, 20 February 2017): Officials at a federal training facility that mistakenly exposed thousands of first responders to deadly ricin toxin were worried five years ago that their vendor had shipped the wrong type of powder. The vial of powder contained ricin “greater than 90% pure,” according to its certificate of analysis. Despite concerns, the center kept buying more of it for use in classes for five years.
- Inside the Chinese lab poised to study world’s most dangerous pathogens (David Cyranoski, 22 February 2017; Updated: 23 February 2017): Maximum-security biolab is part of plan to build a network of BSL-4 facilities across China.
- Rogers staffer gets briefing on CDP problems with ricin (Eddie Burkhalter, 23 February 2017): A member of U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers staff office was briefed Wednesday on problems at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, which previously used deadly toxins during training.
- Naval Research Lab Works to Put a Stop to Pandemic Disease (Yolanda R. Arrington, 14 February 2017): The U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 2 (NAMRU-2) has been working for over a decade in the Kampong Cham Province of Cambodia to help establish epidemiological surveillance studies and increase biosecurity capacities.
- The Biotechnological Wild West: The Good, the Bad, and the Underknown of Synthetic Biology (Yong-Bee Lim, 14 February 2017): Report from a panel on emerging biotechnologies at the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Biothreats conference.
- Mathematics supports a new way to classify viruses based on structure (Greta Keenan, 23 February 2017): Professor Robert Sinclair at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) and Professor Dennis Bamford and Dr. Janne Ravantti from the University of Helsinki have found new evidence to support a classification system for viruses based on viral structure. Application of this new structure-based classification system could make it easier to identify and treat newly emerging viruses that cannot easily be classified with existing classification systems.
- Emergent BioSolutions to Develop Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Therapeutics Under BARDA Contract (16 February 2017): Emergent BioSolutions has received a task order from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) valued at up to $30.5 million to develop monoclonal antibody therapeutics for viral hemorrhagic fever.
- Army Engineer Research and Development Center Awards SynBio Contract
(16 February 2017): The US Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) has announced intentions to issue an award on a sole source basis to Science Policy Consulting, LLC to identify potential environmental exposure and hazards that may arise from testing or deployment of new SynBio technologies.
- Anthrax Drugs Price Analysis and Strategies 2012-2016 & Forecasts to 2021 – Research and Markets (PRNewswire, 21 February 2017): The latest research Anthrax Drugs Price Analysis and Strategies – 2016, provides drug pricing data and benchmarks in the global Anthrax market.
- Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) Security – Research Report
(TMR – Research Reports, 22 February 2017): Survey of the global CBRN security market and forecasts.
- Saab to deliver CBRN equipment to INTERPOL (SAAB, 22 February 2017): Defence and security company Saab has received an order for delivery of specially customised CBRN sampling equipment and a certified transport packaging container to INTERPOL’s BioTerrorism Prevention Unit.
- Report by U.S. Government Research Scientists Confirms Bio Terror Threat Detection Capabilities of PathSensor’s (PRWEB, 23 February 2017): PathSensors’ CANARY® biosensor threat detection technology was found to have the best level of detection (LOD) for two bio terror threats, Bacillus anthracis (anthrax) and Ricin.