Malaysia and N Korea spar over airport death

Malaysia's police chief says three North Korean suspects wanted for questioning in the murder of a man thought to be the half-brother of the DPRK leader are all in Malaysia. N Korea says the dead man is no relation to Kim Jong-un.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Malaysia's Royal Police Chief Khalid Abu Bakar (C) at a press conference on February 22, 2017.

Malaysian investigators want to question a North Korean diplomat and an airline staffer over the killing of a man thought to be the half-brother of DPRK leader Jong-un. The North Korean embassy has blocked the requests, Malaysian officials said on Wednesday.

The man was allegedly poisoned by two women at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Monday, February 13, and died en route to hospital.

Malaysian police have put eight North Koreans and two others in the frame for the murder.

Three have been arrested including a North Korean man, a Vietnamese woman and an Indonesian woman.

Four North Koreans fled the country according to police, who want to question three other North Koreans: a diplomat, an airline staffer and a third suspect.

"We have written to the ambassador to allow us to interview both of them. We hope that the Korean embassy will cooperate with us and allow us to interview them quickly. If not we will compel them to come to us," Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said.

TRT World spoke with Kuala Lumpur-based journalist Zan Azlee about the case.

Malaysian police also say the North Korean embassy has not assisted in tracking the four who allegedly fled Malaysia after the killing.

"That's why we are seeking it now to trace the four who we strongly believe are already in Pyongyang and must be sent back over to us," Abu Bakar said.

North Korean embassy has not given us any assistance yet - Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar

Tussle Continues

Diplomatic tensions have escalated between Malaysia and North Korea since the killing, with the countries tussling over custody of the victim's body and trading barbs over Malaysia's handling of the investigation.

Abu Bakar named the North Korean diplomat as 44-year-old Hyon Kwang Song, and said he held the rank of second secretary at the embassy.

The Air Koryo staffer was identified as Kim Uk Il, and the third North Korean suspect was Ri Ji U.

Police said all three men were still in Malaysia.

On Monday, North Korea's ambassador to Malaysia, Kang Chol, said the police investigation could not be trusted because the victim was not Kim Jong-nam.

Chol said the embassy had only ever identified the victim as Kim Chol, based on a passport carried by the dead man.

"…there is no clear evidence on the cause of death and at the moment we cannot trust the investigation by the Malaysian police," the North Korean ambassador said.

Poison Attack?

Police said the two women who were arrested over the killing knew they were taking part in a poison attack.

"Yes, of course they knew," Abu Bakar said describing the women attackers who he said knew they were carrying a toxic substance when they approached Kim.

"I think you have seen the video, right? The lady was moving away with her hands towards the bathroom. She was very aware that it was toxic and that she needed to wash her hands."

Malaysian authorities carried out an autopsy on the body last week, but have not yet revealed the results.

Last week, they said they would not release the body to North Korea until Kim's next-of-kin provided DNA samples to confirm it is him.

Indonesian police have said the Indonesian suspect had been duped into believing she was taking part in a TV prank show.

South Korean and US officials have said the killing was probably carried out by North Korean agents at the behest of Kim Jong-un.

Source: 
TRTWorld and agencies