Saturday 20 January 2018

Kim suspects say they thought poison attack at airport 'a prank'

Police officers stand near the entrance of the forensic department at the hospital in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo: AP
Police officers stand near the entrance of the forensic department at the hospital in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo: AP
Kim Jong-nam
A dark-haired woman wearing a yellow top, suspected of involvement in the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, is escorted by officials to a vehicle in Kuala Lumpur

Arthur Lim in Kuala Lumpur

THE two female and four male suspects in the killing of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of the North Korean leader, did not know each other before they were hired for the murder plot, a Malaysian security source has said.

The six, most of whom are thought to be sleeper agents, were all living in Kuala Lumpur and were recruited and briefed by a secret agent point man or woman, the source, who did not want to be named, said.

Siti Aishah and the other female suspect, a Vietnamese, claimed to police they were persuaded to attack Mr Kim as part of a "prank".

Aishah, from Indonesia, who was arrested in the early hours of Tuesday, had been living in the Malaysian capital for several months and working as a nightclub hostess.

She says she had been approached by a man while at work and offered $100 (€93) to help with the stunt, reported the Indonesian news site Kumpuran.

The report, which could not be independently verified, suggested that Aishah went ahead with the deal because she needed the money, but had no idea who Kim Jong-nam was.

Kim Jong-nam
Kim Jong-nam

It claimed she also did not know the other suspects and thought they were a film crew in a comedy reality television show.

According to Kumpuran, Aishah is an uneducated divorced mother of one son, who does not live with her. She had worked as a domestic helper in Jakarta before moving to Malaysia in 2013 with her now former husband.

The Malaysian security source said police also detained a 25-year-old Malaysian man on Wednesday evening.

He is believed to be Aishah's boyfriend and is not thought to be involved in the case, but merely helping police with inquiries that led to her arrest.

The Vietnamese suspect, Doan Thi Huong, also told police she had been tricked into wiping poison on Kim believing it was a harmless prank.

Reports suggest the two women did not leave Kuala Lumpur airport, the scene of the attack, with any sense of urgency, and lined up for a cab at the exit, where they were arrested.

An autopsy report has been delayed and Mr Kim's body will remain under police protection.

A post-mortem examination has also reportedly identified the poison used in the attack, although the results have yet to be announced.

Speculation continues to mount that Kim Jong-nam was killed on the orders of Kim Jong-un, who feared that he could become the rallying point for a coup against his regime.

South Korea's Yonhap News reported that North Korean diplomats had met Kim Jong-nam in January and asked him to voluntarily go to Pyongyang.

It added that he had asked for time to consider the request.

The report claimed that Kim Jong-un was concerned that his half-brother was considering "defecting".

Meanwhile, it was reported yesterday that Kim Jong-nam may have made it easier for agents acting for North Korea to track him down by posting images of his playboy lifestyle in Macau, Shanghai and Singapore on Facebook.

The NK News website reported yesterday that Mr Kim used the social media site extensively, using the alias Kim Chol - which was also the name printed on his travel document when he collapsed at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Monday. The page contains numerous photos of Mr Kim in cities in the region, as well as outside casinos and famous hotels.

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