Malaysian police on Wednesday detained a woman holding Vietnam travel papers and are looking for a “few” other foreign suspects in connection with the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s estranged half-brother, police said.
Lawmakers in South Korea had earlier cited their spy agency as saying it suspected two female North Korean agents had murdered Kim Jong Nam, and US government sources also said they believed North Korean assassins were responsible.
The portly and gregarious Kim Jong Nam, the eldest son of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, was assaulted on Monday morning in the departure hall of Kuala Lumpur International Airport and died on the way to hospital, Malaysian police said.
The woman detained at Kuala Lumpur airport was identified from CCTV footage at the airport and was alone when she was apprehended, police said in a statement. Media had earlier published a grainy CCTV-captured image of a young woman wearing a white shirt with the letters “LOL” on the front.
Documents she carried were in the name of Doan Thi Huong, showed a birth date of May 1998 and birthplace of Nam Dinh, Vietnam, police said.
“Police are looking for a few others, all foreigners,” Deputy Inspector-General Noor Rashid Ibrahim said, declining to give their nationalities or gender.
South Korean intelligence believes Kim Jong Nam was poisoned, the lawmakers in Seoul, said.
The spy agency told them that the young and unpredictable North Korean leader had issued a “standing order” for his half-brother’s assassination, and that there had been a failed attempt in 2012.
“The cause of death is strongly suspected to be a poisoning attack,” said South Korean lawmaker Kim Byung-kee, who was briefed by the spy agency.
Kim had been at the airport’s budget terminal to catch a flight to Macau on Monday when someone grabbed or held his face from behind, after which he felt dizzy and sought help at an information desk, Malaysian police official Fadzil Ahmat said.
According to South Korea’s spy agency, Kim had been living, under Beijing’s protection, with his second wife in Macau, the lawmakers said.
“If the murder of Kim Jong Nam was confirmed to be committed by the North Korean regime, that would clearly depict the brutality and inhumanity of the Kim Jong Un regime,” South Korean Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who is also acting president, told a security meeting.
The meeting was called in response to Kim Jong Nam’s death, news of which first emerged late on Tuesday.South Korea is acutely sensitive to any sign of instability in isolated North Korea, Malaysian police said Kim held a passport under the name Kim Chol, with a birth date that made him 46.
His body was taken on Wednesday to a second hospital, where an autopsy was being performed. North Korean embassy officials had arrived at the hospital and were coordinating with authorities, police sources said.There was no mention of Kim Jong Nam’s death in North Korean media.