Saturday 29 April 2017

Seoul blames North Korea for Kim brother's murder

Suspects arrested (clockwise from top left): Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, North Korean Ri Jong Chol, Malaysian Muhammad Farid Bin Jallaludin and Indonesian Siti Aisyah
Suspects arrested (clockwise from top left): Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, North Korean Ri Jong Chol, Malaysian Muhammad Farid Bin Jallaludin and Indonesian Siti Aisyah

Eileen Ng

Investigators are looking for four North Korean men who flew out of Malaysia the same day Kim Jong Nam, the North Korean ruler's outcast half brother, apparently was poisoned at an airport in Kuala Lumpur.

Since Mr Kim's death last week, authorities have been trying to piece together details of what appeared to be an assassination. Malaysian police have so far arrested four people carrying IDs from North Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Malaysia's deputy national police chief, Noor Rashid Ibrahim, said yesterday that four other North Korean suspects were on the run. The men arrived in Malaysia on different days beginning on January 31 and flew out of the country last Monday, when Mr Kim died.

"We believe the North Korean regime is behind this incident considering five suspects are North Koreans," said Seoul's unification ministry spokesman.

Mr Noor Rashid showed photographs of four North Korean men, aged 33, 34, 55 and 57, who he says are on the run.

He also said there were three other people police wanted to question. He said that one was North Korean, but that police had not yet identified the other two. It wasn't clear if they were suspects or simply wanted for questioning.

A rotund man in his mid-40s, Mr Kim was waiting for his flight home to Macau when, authorities say, he was set upon by two women. He sought help at an airport customer service desk and said "two unidentified women had swabbed or had wiped his face with a liquid and that he felt dizzy," Mr Noor Rashid said.

Mr Kim died en route to a hospital after suffering a seizure, officials say.

Mr Noor Rashid said that he expected autopsy results to be released within days. "We have to send a sample to the chemistry department, we have to send a sample for toxicology tests," he said.

Investigators also want to speak to Mr Kim's next of kin to identify the body.

He is believed to have two sons and a daughter with two women living in Beijing and Macau.

"We are trying very hard to get the next of kin to come and to assist us in the investigation," Mr Noor Rashid said.

He said charges against the four suspects in custody would be determined by prosecutors.

According to police, the Indonesian woman is a spa masseuse and the Malaysian man, a caterer, is believed to be her boyfriend. The Vietnamese woman works at an entertainment outlet and the North Korean man works in the information technology department of a Malaysian company.

The Indonesian woman has told investigators she was duped into thinking she was part of a comedy show prank.

The North Korean man's work permit expired a week before Mr Kim's death.

The case has raised tensions between Malaysia and North Korea. Pyongyang demanded custody of Mr Kim's body and objected to an autopsy. The Malaysians went ahead with the procedure anyway, saying they were following procedure.

Kang Chol, North Korea's ambassador to Malaysia, said that Malaysia may be "trying to conceal something" and that the autopsy was carried out "unilaterally and excluding our attendance".

"We are investigating a case of murder...we just follow our rules and regulations," Mr Noor Rashid said.

South Korea has been quick to blame its enemies in North Korea for Mr Kim's death.

"Considering North Korea has so far committed crimes against humanity and terror acts, we, together with the international community, are closely watching this brutal, reckless incident with serious concerns," South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon Hee said.

Irish Independent

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