Malaysia arrests 3rd suspect in N Korean's death

A medical staff member stands at the entrance of the forensic department at a hospital in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. Malaysian police arrested a woman Wednesday in the apparent assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the North Korean leader's exiled half brother who South Korean spies say once begged his sibling to spare his life. According to two senior Malaysian government officials, the elder Kim died en route to a hospital on Monday after suddenly falling ill at the budget terminal of Kuala Lumpur International Airport. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia —

Malaysian authorities announced two more arrests Thursday in the death of the North Korean leader’s half brother, whose apparent assassination this week unleashed a wave of speculation and intrigue: a pair of female assailants, a broad-daylight killing and a dictator-sibling out for blood.

Investigators were still piecing together details of the case, including the widespread assumption that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un dispatched a hit squad to kill his estranged half brother, Kim Jong Nam. Known for his love of gambling and casinos, Kim Jong Nam had lived abroad for years, aware he was a hunted man.

Three suspects - two women and a man - were arrested separately Wednesday and Thursday. The women were identified using surveillance videos from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, where Kim Jong Nam, who was 45 or 46, suddenly fell ill Monday morning.

Malaysian officials said he died on the way to a hospital after telling medical workers at the airport that he had been sprayed with a chemical.

Multiple South Korean media reports, citing unidentified sources, said two women believed to be North Korean agents killed him with some kind of poison before fleeing in a taxi.

One of the female suspects had Vietnamese travel documents and was picked up Wednesday at the budget terminal of the airport, the same place where the attack took place. The other woman held an Indonesian passport and was arrested early Thursday.

Police said they were working to determine if the IDs were genuine. It was not immediately clear if the women were believed to be the actual assassins.

Indonesian diplomats met with the second suspect and confirmed she is an Indonesian citizen, officials said. Authorities identified her as Siti Aisyah, 25, originally from Serang in Banten, a province that neighbors the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

Indonesian Immigration Office spokesman Agung Sampurno said officials from the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur met with the woman in Selangor state, where she is being held, and ensured she is in safe condition.

“They were allowed to see her but cannot make any questions,” said Sampurno. “However, the team can confirm that Aisyah is Indonesian.”

News of the third arrest came Thursday afternoon. Police said they had detained a Malaysian man who was believed to be the boyfriend of the Indonesian suspect.

Medical workers also completed an autopsy on Kim Jong Nam, but the results have not been released. The findings could reveal whether he was actually poisoned.

North Korea had objected to the autopsy but Malaysia went ahead with it anyway because the North did not submit a formal protest, said Abdul Samah Mat, a senior Malaysian police official.

On Thursday, Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Zahid Hamidi said security is a top priority for the government and the authorities had acted swiftly and efficiently.

Asked at a news conference why Malaysia failed to protect Kim Jong Nam, Zahid said: “What do you mean? Do we have to engage a bodyguard and usher him everywhere? No.”

Kim Jong Nam was estranged from his younger half brother, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and had been living abroad for years. He reportedly fell out of favor when he was caught trying to enter Japan on a false passport in 2001, saying he wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

Kim Jong Nam was the son of Kim Jong Il, North Korea’s second leader, and Sung Hye Rim, an actress who analysts say was forced to divorce her first husband to live in secret with the future leader in 1970, a year before their son was born.

He was reportedly educated in Geneva and Moscow in his early teens and became fluent in English, French and Russian. After Kim Jong Il’s death in 2011, Kim Jong Nam complained that Kim Jong Un, the country’s new leader, was failing to treat him with respect and send him enough money, according to Cheong Seong-Chang, an analyst at South Korea’s Sejong Institute.

However, Kim Jong Nam refrained from openly criticizing the North and kept a low profile after Kim Jong Un executed his uncle and former protector Jang Song Thaek, once considered the country’s second-most powerful person, in 2013.

Since taking power, Kim Jong Un has executed or purged a number of high-level government officials.

The National Intelligence Service said North Korea had been trying for five years to kill Kim Jong Nam, and that he had sent a letter to Kim Jong Un in April 2012, begging for the lives of himself and his family.

Officials from South Korea’s spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, told lawmakers that Kim Jong Nam leaves behind two sons and a daughter with two women living in Beijing and Macau.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • 4

    papigiulio

    This whole story is a mystery. He had no power, he lived abroad and loved gambling, was not considered to follow Jong Un as a leader, in fact not even interested in it so not sure why he was on a hit list. It doesnt make sense. Maybe because Jong Un was living life as a free North Korean, giving a bad image?

  • 10

    taj

    He had no power, he lived abroad and loved gambling, was not considered to follow Jong Un as a leader, in fact not even interested in it so not sure why he was on a hit list. It doesnt make sense

    I'd suggest looking at the history of the York, Lancaster, and Tudor dynasties. (or Game of Thrones, if that's more your thing). For a dynastic ruler who is feels support slipping, anyone else with a potential claim to the throne represents a threat. That person can become a rallying point for those who wish to the leader or overthrow the line of succession. eg: Jane Grey had no interest in the becoming queen of England after young Edward VI died, but protestants wanting to avoid the Catholic Mary from taking over and undoing Henry VIII's reforms, rallied and put her on the throne. Briefly.

  • 1

    Triring

    There is also Fugi the last emperor of China later becoming the puppet ruler of Manchuko. To my knowledge PRC was keeping tabs on Jong Nam and may had been placed on the throne if Jong Un completely becomes uncontrolled.

  • 0

    Reckless

    could be a third party country caused the execution to discredit N. Korea,,, Charlies' Angels,,,

  • 2

    theeastisred

    I hope they are the real culprits, then questioning may teach us more about KJU's methods. The body should not be sent back to N Korea, by the way, as they are asking. I wonder what he did for money if he wasn't being supported by Pyongyang. KJU's mother was born in Japan and grandfather worked making uniforms for the Japanese military, potentially tarnishing KJU so an older sibling with an untainted family line could easily be seen as a threat, if you are looking at things that way.

    Fugi = Pu Yi, by the way.

  • 1

    nandakandamanda

    As to possible motive. I have seen some reports in the press that he may have been contemplating applying to live in South Korea. That would surely be unforgivable.

    And if he was seen as having close ties with PRC as Triring says above, then DPRK might well have considered whether he has become the PRC's prime candidate to replace an ailing Kim Jong Un, who went through a bad patch not too long ago.

  • 0

    edojin

    I'm surprised the two women are still alive. Under intense questioning I'm sure they will produce an interesting story ... most likely leading back to North Korea itself ...

  • 1

    nandakandamanda

    Interesting background here: http://m.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20170216000449#cb

  • 0

    Strangerland

    I'm surprised they wouldn't have a pre-planned route out of Malaysia and been gone before the authorities could find them. Seems kind of amateurish.

  • 0

    TorafusuTorasan

    It's being said that a third figure, a male Malaysian supposed boyfriend of one of the women, has been arrested. So far the three arrested suspects had three different national passports, none of which was N. Korean. But Kim Jong Nam once tried to enter Japan on a Dominican Republic passport, so that seems to be par for the course.

    NHK news devoted a lot of airtime to this, such as reporting his gambling expenses running from the tens to hundreds of millions of yen in a normal casino visit (no word on his winnings but over the years it's safe to bet he lost a lot of money). Odd that the assassins didn't try this at a casino, but then again VIP areas of casinos may have super tight security with all the money floating around.

    Hopefully the youngest exiled family members, studying in Europe and/or living in China, will stay safe.

  • 1

    chisineko

    How did this guy manage to support his life style?

  • -2

    SenseNotSoCommon

    How did this guy manage to support his life style?

    Trade? Arms/Meth dealer?

  • 0

    toshiko

    Malaysia official tasted a third person is arrested.

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