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Kim Jong-un’s half-brother dies after ‘attack’ at airport in Malaysia
Source: The Guardian
The estranged half-brother of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has died in Malaysia, police have confirmed, after he told authorities he had been attacked in the shopping concourse at Kuala Lumpur airport.
Kim Jong-nam, who was 45 years old, died on his way to hospital after seeking help at an information desk because he felt dizzy, Malalysian police said. He said he had been attacked by an unknown assailant, and police have ordered a postmortem.
Both South Korean and US government sources believe Kim was murdered by North Korean agents, Reuters news agency reported. Poison-pen devices have been found on would-be North Korean assassins in the past, and a US government official said a similar device could not be ruled out.
Kim had been planning to travel to Macau, where he is believed to have a home and family, when he fell ill at the low-cost terminal of Kuala Lumpur international airport (KLIA), police official Fadzil Ahmat told Reuters.
“The deceased … felt like someone grabbed or held his face from behind,” Fadzil said. “We don’t know if there was a cloth or needles. The receptionist said someone grabbed his face, he felt dizzy.”
Kim was taken to an airport clinic, where medical staff ordered an ambulance, but he died on his way to hospital. A postmortem will be carried out and police have launched an investigation, although they do not yet have any suspects, Ahmat said.
Malaysia is one of the few countries to maintain cordial ties with North Korea, and nationals of both countries enjoy visa-free travel, potentially making any killers harder to track down.
South Korea’s TV Chosun, a cable-TV network, reported that Kim had been poisoned by two women believed to be North Korean operatives, and the Yonhap news agency reported that the suspects in Kim’s death fled the scene in a taxi.
Kim, the eldest son of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, had been considered his father’s designated successor until a bizarre incident in 2001 when he was exposed trying to sneak into Japan on a fake passport. He claimed at the time that he wanted to visit Disneyland.
The publicity surrounding the event reportedly infuriated the older Kim, and Kim Jong-nam was shunted aside in favour of his younger brother. He is thought to have lived in exile for years, and unlike other relatives did not hold an official title or play any part in governing North Korea.
He chose a largely private life, but his few public comments included blunt criticism. Just weeks into his younger half-brother’s rule, he reportedly described the regime as “a joke to the outside world” and said he opposed the hereditary transfer of power in the country.
Those comments appeared in a book by Yoji Gomi, a journalist with the Japanese newspaper the Tokyo Shimbun, who said he had exchanged emails with Kim Jong-nam over seven years.
In a statement on Tuesday, Malaysian police said the dead man held a passport under the name Kim Chol, but all the Kim family regularly travel under pseudonyms.
If confirmed that North Korean operatives were responsible for Kim’s death, it would be the highest-profile killing connected with the Pyongyang regime since Kim Jong-un ordered the arrest and execution of his uncle and close adviser, Jang Song-thaek, in December 2013.
Kim Jong-un is thought to have presided over several purges, including executions, since becoming leader. And for many years North Korea is known to have targeted defectors and critics overseas, including relatives of the ruling family.
In 1997 Lee Han-young, a cousin of the Kim brothers, who had defected, was shot and killed by North Korean agents in Seoul, according to South Korea.
Regime agents also have a track record of deploying covert weapons that might not seem out of place in a James Bond film. In 2012, a former member of the North Korean special forces was found guilty in South Korea of attempting to kill Park Sang-hak, a leading anti-North Korean activist..
The would-be killer had been arrested in possession of a torch that doubled as a gun, a fountain pen capable of firing a bladed projectile, and a pen that concealed a poison-tipped needle.
Kim Jong-nam had claimed to have no interest in taking power. “Personally I am against third-generation succession,” he told Japan’s Asahi TV in 2010, before his younger brother had succeeded their father. “I hope my younger brother will do his best for the sake of North Koreans’ prosperous lives.”
But his younger brother may still have feared he could serve as a possible leadership candidate, particularly for a faction seeking a change of leadership but not wholesale overthrow of the current regime.
Kim Jong-nam’s death comes days after the regime came under renewed international pressure following the test-launch of a medium-to-long-range ballistic missile to coincide with Donald Trump’s summit with the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe.
Kim Jong-nam’s mother is Sung Hae-rim, a South Korean-born actor who died in 2002, possibly in Moscow. She was never married to Kim Jong-il. The Korean leader has one surviving brother, an Eric Clapton fan who is thought to serve in the Pyongyang government.
Suspect in North Korea killing ‘thought she was taking part in TV prank’
Source: The Guardian
An Indonesian woman arrested for suspected involvement in the killing of the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s half-brother in Malaysia was duped into thinking she was part of a comedy show prank, Indonesia’s national police chief has said, citing information received from Malaysian authorities.
Meanwhile, Malaysian police said on Saturday they had arrested a North Korean man in connection with the murder.
The man was identified as Ri Jong Chol, born in 1970. He was arrested on Friday night in Selangor state, the police said in a statement. He is the fourth suspect to be arrested.
Indonesia’s national police chief, Tito Karnavian, told reporters in Indonesia’s Aceh province that the Indonesian woman, 25-year-old Siti Aisyah, was paid to be involved in pranks .
He said she and another woman performed stunts which involved convincing men to close their eyes and then spraying them with water.
“Such an action was done three or four times and they were given a few dollars for it, and with the last target, Kim Jong-nam, allegedly there were dangerous materials in the sprayer,” Karnavian said.
“She was not aware that it was an assassination attempt by alleged foreign agents.”
Siti’s family have said they were shocked to hear of her involvement in the case, describing her as a struggling mother who had travelled to Malaysia for work.
Her 26-year-old Malaysian boyfriend was also arrested by police late on Thursday. Police are hunting for other alleged accomplices.
Authorities are investigating whether Siti and another female suspect killed the 46-year-old North Korean exile in a shopping concourse at Kuala Lumpur’s international airport on Monday.
Karnavian’s intervention, based on information that has not been independently verified, came as a diplomatic row developed between Malaysia and North Korea over the fate of Kim ’s body, and as details emerged about the movements of the second female suspect detained over his apparent murder.
Malaysia performed a second autopsy on Kim’s body because the first procedure was inconclusive.
Late on Friday, North Korea’s ambassador in Malaysia said his country would reject the results of a postmortem and demanded the body be released immediately.
“The Malaysian side forced the postmortem without our permission and witnessing, we will categorically reject the result of the postmortem conducted unilaterally excluding our attendance,” Kang Chol said .
Kang said Malaysian police were being pressured by hostile forces, notably South Korea, and the postmortem was a violation of human rights.
Police in Kuala Lumpur said on Friday they would only abide by a North Korean request to hand over the body of Kim when it is claimed by a next of kin or DNA samples are provided.
The second female suspect, who was captured on CCTV at the airport in a top emblazoned with “LOL” and arrested on Wednesday in possession of a Vietnamese passport, stayed at a hotel near the airport in the days before the attack, booking the cheapest room and carrying a wad of cash, according to a receptionist who spoke to Reuters.
She moved accommodation twice. Employees at the second hotel said she borrowed a pair of scissors from the front desk the evening before the attack, and that a member of housekeeping staff found hair on the floor and in the bin the next day.
She then checked into another hotel on Monday afternoon. It is not known what her subsequent movements were before her arrest.
Selangor state’s police chief, Abdul Samah Mat, said Kim’s body would not be released until the identity of the victim had been confirmed.
“ We have only received the application from the North Korean embassy yesterday,” he told Reuters.
“We need to collect DNA samples from the next-of-kin in order to get conclusive evidence on the victim’s identity.”
Diplomats from the North Korean embassy have shown a deep interest in the case, spending several hours at the mortuary on Wednesday and requesting custody of Kim ’s body on the basis that he had a North Korean passport.
North Korean officials reportedly objected to a postmortem, but Malaysian authorities went ahead with the procedure anyway because they had not received a formal complaint.
Police have told the Guardian that samples have been sent to a laboratory for a toxicology report, which could take several days.
North Korean media has made no reference to Kim’s death . People close to him say he was long targeted by his half-brother, Kim Jong-un.
A schoolfriend told the Guardian that Kim – who reportedly divided his time between Macau, China and Singapore – feared for his life and was recently planning a trip to Europe.
Malaysia’s deputy prime minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, said on Thursday that Kim had been travelling under a pseudonym, Kim Chol.
“We have looked into the possibility that he travelled with a fake passport. I think he carried two different identities. Probably this is an undercover document.”
Hamidi said the body would be released to North Korea once “police and medical procedures” were completed.
“The cause of death will be confirmed by the police, who will issue a statement,” he added.
Malaysia is one of the few countries in the world with normalised relations and visa-free travel into North Korea. In October 2016, several former US diplomats held talks with senior Pyongyang officials in Kuala Lumpur.
There is a small North Korean community living in the Malaysian capital although shops and restaurants owned by the expatriates have been closed this week.
Kim was once seen as heir apparent to his father, Kim Jong-il, but was ostracised in 2001 after a failed attempt to enter Japan on a forged passport, apparently to visit Disneyland.
However, Yoji Gomi, a Japanese journalist and former friend, said he had already become disillusioned with the North Korean dictatorship in the early 1990s when “he saw the reality of the country’s situation”.
Kim had spent many years in Switzerland, Russia and later settled in Macau. South Korea’s intelligence agency told lawmakers in Seoul that Kim had received China’s protection.