Sunday 19 November 2017

Chemist suspected of masterminding Kim assassination

CCTV footage of Kim Jong Nam with airport security and officials after he was attacked at Kuala Lumpur Airport Photo: Fuji Television via AP
CCTV footage of Kim Jong Nam with airport security and officials after he was attacked at Kuala Lumpur Airport Photo: Fuji Television via AP

Arthur Lim

The North Korean citizen being held over the murder of Kim Jong-nam has a doctorate in chemistry and is suspected of arranging all the logistics for the attack in Kuala Lumpur.

The new details came as CCTV footage emerged showing the attack that killed the half-brother of Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator.

Mr Kim died last Monday a short time after the attack in the departure hall of Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Malaysian police have detained four suspects - an Indonesian woman, a Vietnamese woman, a Malaysian man and North Korean man - and are on the hunt for four other North Koreans, all of whom are now thought to be back in Pyongyang.

The arrested North Korean, named by police as Rin Jong-chol (47), is suspected of being "the local contact of the four North Korean suspects who fled the country by plane after the attack", an unnamed Malaysian security source said.

"He has got a doctorate in chemistry and was working for a Malaysian traditional herbal medicine company."

It is understood he is suspected of arranging logistics - booking the hotels and taxis and arranging the meeting point. He is also suspected of providing help with the chemical substances that led to Mr Kim's death.

The two female suspects told police they were offered £60 (€70) and £80 (€93) respectively for what they claimed they believed was a prank that would get them on TV, police said.

Siti Aisyah, the Indonesian female suspect, "said that she had taken part in a similar prank at a shopping mall in Jakarta," the security source said.

"She claimed she was recruited in January by a middle-aged man who spoke Japanese and Malay. She said the recruiter told her they needed her to do a prank for a TV show. In return, she said, she would receive one million Indonesian rupiah (£60).

"She was told her job was to touch the cheeks, poke and put sauce on the face of a rich man.

"She did not think there was anything suspicious and saw it as a chance to get on TV."

Aisyah worked in both a massage parlour and as a nightclub hostess in Kuala Lumpur and split her time between Malaysia and Indonesia, the source said.

The Vietnamese suspect, named as Duan Thi Huong, gave a similar story to police and said she had been offered $100 (€94) for her role. She had also apparently been working as a nightclub hostess.

The CCTV footage, obtained by Fuji TV and often grainy and blurred, seems to show two women approaching Mr Kim from different directions as he stands at a ticketing kiosk at the budget terminal of the Kuala Lumpur airport. One comes up behind him and appears to hold something over his mouth for a few seconds.

Then the women turn and calmly walk away in different directions.

More footage shows Mr Kim, a long-estranged member of the family that has ruled North Korea for three generations, walking up to airport workers and security officials, gesturing at his eyes and seemingly asking for help.

He then walks alongside them as they lead him to the airport clinic.

Fuji TV has not revealed how it acquired the video footage.

Malaysia recalled its ambassador to North Korea on Monday amid rising tensions over the death, while North Korea's ambassador arrived for a meeting at the Malaysian foreign ministry.

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