Updated at 12:10 a.m. ET on 2017-02-22
Investigators want to question a North Korean diplomat stationed in Kuala Lumpur in connection with the death of Kim Jong Un’s half-brother, in which two female suspects attacked him with a toxin at a local airport, Malaysia’s police chief said Wednesday.
Malaysian police have sent a request asking the embassy to allow investigators to interrogate Hyon Kwang Song, 44, a second secretary at Pyongyang’s diplomatic mission, as well as Kim Uk Il, 37, an employee of North Korean state-run airline Air Koryo, Police Inspector-General Khalid Abu Bakar told a news conference in Kuala Lumpur.
Both men were seen in CCTV footage taken at the airport on the day of the attack on Kim Jong Nam, he said.
“We submitted the request today. If they refuse to cooperate, then we will issue warrants of arrest on both of them,” Khalid said, adding, “We have written to the embassy to allow us to interview both of them. We hope that the NK embassy will cooperate with us.”
Khalid also alleged the two women in custody – an Indonesian national and a woman whom Malaysian police have identified as a Vietnamese passport holder – were both trained to handle toxins and had practiced at two Kuala Lumpur area shopping malls before carrying out the Feb. 13 attack.
The diplomat and Air Koryo employee who police are looking for are still in Malaysia, Khalid said. Police also are searching for a third North Korean man, identified as Ri Ji U (also known as James), and whose image was also caught by a CCTV camera on Feb. 13 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2), where Kim was allegedly attacked as he prepared to board a flight to Macau. Police believe that all three North Korean suspects are still in Malaysia, Khalid said.
Four other North Koreans, whom local authorities identified over the weekend and were looking for in connection with the case, left Malaysia on the day of Kim’s death, according to police. Kim died en route to a hospital after complaining to medical staff at the airport that he felt ill after a woman had attacked him with a chemical spray.
“We believe these four are heavily involved in the attack. We have got nothing from the embassy at the moment. We are seeking their help to trace the four and send them back to us,” Khalid said.
‘They are trained’
Commenting on the two women in custody, the police chief rejected reports that either had been duped into thinking they were playing a prank on Kim that was being filmed for a reality TV show.
They were trained to use a toxin and had been instructed to wash their hands immediately after the attack, Khalid said.
“They are trained. This is not something like shooting a movie,” he said.
“The Indonesian woman sprayed and then the Vietnam woman wiped [a cloth over Kim’s face], and then they are instructed to clean their hands,” Khalid said.
The two had practiced for the attack at the KLCC and Pavilion shopping centers in Kuala Lumpur, he alleged.
“We will be applying for their remands to be extended today for the two women for another seven days. The male, boyfriend of the Indonesian woman will be released today by police bond,” Khalid said.
Malaysian police have identified the two women as Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam and Siti Aisyah of Indonesia. Apart from Siti’s boyfriend, whom police have identified as Malaysian citizen Muhammad Farid Bin Jalaluddin, the Malaysian authorities have a North Korean man in custody, Ri Jong Chol.
‘Not a poison’: North Korea
Following Khalid’s press conference, Pyongyang’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur issued a statement demanding police free the two women and the North Korean national.
“[T]hey should immediately release the innocent females from Vietnam and Indonesia as well as a DPRK citizen, Ri Jong Chol who was arrested unreasonably.”
The statement, the third set of comments issued by the embassy in connection with the Kim case since last week, reiterated accusations that Malaysia was colluding with South Korea over this matter and again cast doubt on the integrity of the Malaysian police investigation.
“Malaysia has been conducting the investigation based on the CCTV footage that was released to the public and the delusion that the female suspects had daubed poison on the victim’s face with their own hands. Then how is it possible that these female suspects could be alive after the incident?” the embassy said in its latest statement, which did not identify the half-brother of North Korea’s leader by name.
“This means that the liquid they daubed for a joke is not a poison and that there is another cause of death for the deceased,” the statement said.
Malaysian officials have not released a post-mortem report stating the cause of death.
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.