Following yesterday's shocking news that the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un was assassinated, Malaysian authorities said on Wednesday that they detained a suspect in the apparent murder and are looking for a "few" other foreign suspects, as they zeroed in on the two women who police said fatally attacked him.
The detained woman was carrying a passport from Vietnam and was alone at the time of the arrest at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, the local police said as they pieced together a timelime of the assault. “We believe she has a strong connection with the murder,” said Malaysia Deputy Inspector General of Police, Noor Rashid Ibrahim. “We are still looking for a few suspects, they are all still in Malaysia.”
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 U.S. government sources also told Reuters they believed North Korean assassins were responsible.
According to the WSJ, Kim Jong Nam, the brother, arrived early for a 10:50 a.m. AirAsia flight to Macau on Monday after more than a week in Malaysia, police said. He was in a well-lit, spacious departures hall lined with cafes like Starbucks, near a popular photo spot of a Chinese New Year exhibit featuring a giant, yellow chick. There, Mr. Kim was approached from opposite sides by two fair-skinned women who didn't appear to be Malaysian, said police who viewed CCTV footage. One of the women touched Mr. Kim's face with a cloth that contained an unidentified liquid before both departed in separate directions, police said.
"It lasted about 15 seconds," one official said, adding that the CCTV nearest to the incident wasn't working, leaving police to use footage from one further away.
Another CCTV that might've shown how the women departed the hall was also out of order, he said. One officer said no foul play was suspected in the nonworking cameras. Kim was then transported to a nearby hospital but was pronounced dead en route, police said. An autopsy is under way. Local reports said authorities also arrested the taxi driver who ferried the women away from the airport. Police declined to comment on that.
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.
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.
As the WSJ adds, Kim's body was moved Wednesday to the larger Hospital Kuala Lumpur, which has more extensive facilities and equipment, for a detailed examination of what killed him. At least three North Korean Embassy vehicles were seen at the hospital compound.
About 10 Malaysian police were detailed as security outside. Security was tighter than usual at Kuala Lumpur's modern international airport departures hall Wedesday morning, with several tarmac security staff diverted to near the spot where Mr. Kim had been assaulted. An inconspicuous smattering of police moved intermittently through the hall.
Many staff said police had instructed them to say nothing about Monday's incident, and most of the those who had been working Monday had been rotated to other posts in the airport, they said. Others said they had only learned of the killing on Wednesday morning.
No areas were cordoned off, and other activity continued as normal, with several hundred travelers spread throughout the hall and cafes at any given moment. A half dozen hotel and tour operators at an exhibit just steps from where Mr. Kim was assaulted said they were stunned to find out an international incident had taken place just before they'd opened Monday. "Now it's a global event," one said, showing updates of the story on his phone.
In front of the exhibit, approximately where police say Mr. Kim was assaulted, traditional dancers performed in the afternoon.
South Korean intelligence believes Kim Jong Nam was poisoned, the lawmakers in South Korea's capital, 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.
Reuters adds that according to South Korea's spy agency, Kim Jong Nam had been living, under Beijing's protection, with his second wife in the Chinese territory of Macau, the lawmakers said. One of them said Kim Jong Nam also had a wife and son in Beijing. Kim had spoken out publicly against his family's dynastic control of the isolated state.
"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.
Yoji Gomi, a Japanese journalist who wrote a 2012 book on Kim Jong Nam, said Kim's media appearances, which increased around the time South Korean intelligence said he was targeted for assassination, may have been an attempt to protect himself. "I now have the impression that even he may have had a sense of danger, so he began exposing himself in the media and stating his opinions to protect himself and counter North Korea," Gomi told a talk show on Japan's NTV.
There was no mention of Kim Jong Nam's death in North Korean media.