KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysian police said Sunday that four North Korean suspects in the murder of the estranged half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un fled Malaysia on the day of the killing.
The four North Koreans flew out of Malaysia, but police would not reveal the flight’s destination, just that they were coordinating with Interpol to track them down.
Malaysian police on Friday arrested a North Korean man in connection to the murder of Kim Jong Nam, while a Vietnamese woman and an Indonesian woman have also been arrested. A Malaysian man is being detained to facilitate the investigation.
Kim Jong Nam died last Monday after being assaulted at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, from where he was due to catch a flight to Macau. South Korean and U.S. officials have said he was assassinated by North Korean agents using what was thought to be a fast acting poison.
“I can confirm today that they (four North Korean suspects) have left our country the very same day the incident happened,” Deputy Inspector-General of Police Noor Rashid Ismail told reporters at a news conference.
“The four suspects are holding normal passports, not diplomatic passports,” he said.
“Next plan is to get them. We of course have international cooperation especially with Interpol, bilateral involvement with the country involved, we will go through those avenues to get the people involved.”
Malaysian police said the cause of death is still not known and that they are waiting for pathology and toxicology tests after conducting a post-mortem.
A diplomatic spat between North Korea and Malaysia over the body has escalated.
North Korea has said it will reject Malaysia’s autopsy report and accused Malaysia of “colluding with outside forces” — a veiled reference to rival South Korea.
Malaysian police said they have been trying to contact the next-of-kin of Kim Jong Nam. “The body must be identified. The most eligible to identify the body physically is the next-of-kin,” Noor Rashid said.
“We will verify again through scientific means, so it is very important for close family members to come forward to assist us in the process of identification based on legal procedures under Malaysian law.”
Police are giving the next-of-kin two weeks to claim the body. South Korea’s intelligence agency told lawmakers in Seoul that Kim had been living with his second wife in the Chinese territory of Macau, under China’s protection.
Jong Nam, the eldest son of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, had spoken out publicly against his family’s dynastic control of isolated, nuclear-armed North Korea.
The young and unpredictable North Korean leader had issued a “standing order” for his elder half-brother’s assassination, and that there had been a failed attempt in 2012.
Meanwhile, a Vietnamese man said on Sunday he believes that his sister is one of the suspects arrested in Malaysia in connection with the murder of the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Malaysian police have said that among those arrested in the killing was a woman with a Vietnamese travel document.
Vietnamese authorities have said only that they are investigating and are in touch with Malaysia.
Joseph Doan confirmed that his sister’s name was Doan Thi Huong and that she was born in 1988 in Nam Dinh province, southeast of the capital Hanoi. Those details are the same as those released by Malaysian police.
“We only hear about it on the internet and everyone else hears about it on the internet but judging from the picture it looks like her. I can not be a 100 percent certain because we haven’t met her yet,” he said in Nam Dinh.
The rice farmer said his sister appeared to be the woman whose image was captured in a grainy airport CCTV image wearing a white shirt with the acronym ‘LOL’ on it.
He said Vietnamese authorities had been in touch and had been supportive of the family.
Doan said his sister had left home when she was 18 and only came home occasionally and without letting anyone know when she would be back.
“Whenever she comes home I can only tell her to study and work hard,” he said.
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