Woman detained in probe into death of half-brother of North Korea leader

Woman detained in probe into death of half-brother of North Korea leader

The woman was detained in Terminal 2 the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, said police, adding that she was carrying travel documents from Vietnam.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian authorities have detained a woman in connection with the investigations into the death of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The Royal Malaysia Police on Wednesday (Feb 15) said the woman was detained in Terminal 2 of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport and that she was carrying travel documents from Vietnam.

She is identified as Doan Thi Huong, born May 31, 1988 in Nam Dinh, according to the documents.

Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said 28-year-old Doan Thi Huong was arrested at the airport on Wednesday morning - two days after the killing.

The suspect was "positively identified from the CCTV footage at the airport and was alone at the time of arrest," Khalid said in a statement.

"Police are looking for a few others, all foreigners," Deputy Inspector-General Noor Rashid Ibrahim told Reuters, declining to give their nationalities or gender.

Meanwhile, pathologists in the Malaysian capital examined the body for clues as to how he died, in a killing that has echoes of Soviet-era spycraft.

If confirmed, the assassination, which analysts said could have been ordered over reports he was readying to defect, would be the highest-profile death on Kim Jong Un's watch since the 2013 execution of his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, in a country with a long record of meting out brutal deaths.

South Korean lawmakers earlier said South Korea's spy agency suspects two female North Korean agents assassinated Kim Jong Nam on Monday.

SEIZURE

South Korea's spy chief Lee Byung-ho said the two women struck on Monday morning as Kim Jong Nam was readying to board a flight to Macau where he has spent many years in exile.

Malaysian police said Kim Jong Nam, a portly 45-year-old, was walking through the departure hall when he was attacked.

"He told the receptionist ... someone had grabbed his face from behind and splashed some liquid on him," Selangor state's criminal investigation chief Fadzil Ahmat was reported as saying by Malaysia's The Star newspaper.

"He asked for help and was immediately sent to the airport's clinic. At this point, he was experiencing headache and was on the verge of passing out," said Fadzil.

"At the clinic, the victim experienced a mild seizure. He was put into an ambulance and was being taken to the Putrajaya Hospital when he was pronounced dead."

An autopsy at Kuala Lumpur Hospital's forensics department was completed by Wednesday evening, Selangor Police Chief Abdul Samah Mat told AFP, but said no results had yet been issued by the hospital.

A black Jaguar sedan bearing the North Korean flag was seen outside the department, and four officials wearing flag pins were observed within the forensics compound.

The officials left the department around 8pm (1200 GMT) without commenting to reporters.

No party had yet laid claim to the body, Abdul Samah said.

"As for now, the body will be kept at the Kuala Lumpur morgue."

FALL FROM GRACE

Kim Jong Nam, 45, had at one time been set to assume the leadership of his isolated country, but fell out of favour after an embarrassing attempt to get into Japan on a fake passport in 2001.

Kim Jong Nam has since lived in exile, gaining a reputation as something of a playboy with much of his time spent in the gambling enclave of Macau, where he was believed to have enjoyed some protection from Chinese security forces.

Quizzed about the killing during a regular press conference, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing was aware of the reports.

"According to our understanding, the incident took place in Malaysia and the Malaysian side is investigating this issue. We are following the developments," he said.

In Pyongyang, celebrations were underway for Thursday's anniversary of the birth of Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong Nam's father, with an ice-skating gala that made no mention of the drama.

Kim Jong Un has been trying to strengthen his grip on power in the face of growing international pressure over his country's nuclear and missile programmes, and regular reports have emerged on purges and executions.

Kim Jong Nam, known as an advocate of reform in the North, once told Japanese reporters that he opposed his country's dynastic system.

In a 2012 interview from his school in Bosnia, a 17-year-old Kim Han Sol, Kim Jong Nam's son, said his father had been passed over for succession because he "was not really interested in politics".

"I don't really know why he became a dictator," Kim Han Sol said of his uncle Kim Jong Un. "It was between him and my grandfather."

On Wednesday, it emerged that Kim Jong Nam had pleaded with his younger brother for his life to be spared after an earlier assassination attempt.

"Jong Nam in April 2012 sent a letter to Jong Un saying 'Please spare me and my family'," Kim Byung-kee, a member of South Korea's parliamentary intelligence committee, told reporters.

Cheong Seong-chang of the independent Sejong Institute in Seoul said the assassination was "unthinkable without a direct order or approval from Kim Jong Un himself".

His killing was likely motivated by a recent news report that Kim Jong Nam had sought to defect to the EU, the US or South Korea as far back as in 2012, he said.

Source: CNA/Agencies/ek/nc