Malaysia police identify North Korea embassy official as suspect in murder case

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North Korea embassy official suspect in murder case

The North Korea official is suspected of involvement in the murder of Kim Jong Nam who was killed at the airport in Malaysia. Police have accused North Korea of ordering the assassination of Kim Jong Un's half-brother.

Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar announced on Wednesday that investigators believe a senior official at the North Korean Embassy was involved in the airport murder of Kim Jong Nam. The diplomatic suspect holds the rank of second secretary in the embassy, Khalid said.

Khalid also stated a second individual associated with the North Korean airline was being sought for questioning.

North Korea's long killing streak

Living in the crosshairs

High-profile defector Hwang Jang-Yop survived numerous assassination attempts before dying of natural causes at the age of 87. Hwang, who had been one of the leading ideologues of the North's isolationist regime, escaped to South Korea in 1997. Just months before his death in 2010, Seoul authorities arrested two North Korean military officers over one of many plots to kill him.

North Korea's long killing streak

Uncle not 'fed to the dogs'

The execution of Kim Jong Un's uncle Jang Song Thaek, once the second most powerful man in the isolated country, sent shock waves beyond North Korea's borders. Many media outlets wrongly reported that he was fed to hungry dogs, as punishment for his "betrayal" of the ruling family. In reality, he was shot, according to Pyongyang officials and South Korean intelligence.

North Korea's long killing streak

Rumors of brutality

In 2015, Seoul's security services reported that North Korean Defense Minister Hyon Yong-chol was executed by an anti-aircraft gun. However, National Intelligence Service (NIS) soon appeared to backtrack from the report, saying that Hyon might still be alive. Reports of other brutal executions, involving artillery shells and flamethrowers, have also been difficult to confirm.

North Korea's long killing streak

Poisoned needle

North Korean defector and well-known dissident Park Sang-hak was also targeted by a Pyongyang-linked hitman. In 2011, South Korean authorities arrested a former North Korean commando over the plot to assassinate Park Sang-hak with a poison-tipped needle.

North Korea's long killing streak

Removing a rival?

The estranged half-brother of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un was reportedly poisoned by two women at a Kuala Lumpur airport. While details remained sketchy, it was widely believed the killers were sent by the North Korean regime. The 46-year-old Kim Jong Nam had been living abroad after falling from grace in 2001 for visiting Disneyland in Tokyo.

Both suspects are still in Malaysia, he added.

"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," Khalid said.

The police "strongly believed" four suspects fled to the North Korean capital Pyongyang the day of the assassination. They currently have identified five individuals they believe were involved in the murder.

The North Korean ruler's estranged older half-brother died on February 13 while on route to the hospital after being sprayed in the face with an unidentified liquid at Kuala Lumpur International airport.

Four people have already been detained in relation to the attack, which South Korea says was carried out on orders from North Korea.

So far, no relative has come forward to claim the body of Kim. It must remain in Malaysia until identified by a family member. An exact cause of death has yet to be determined. 

Kim Jong Nam (left) was the estranged half-brother of the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

cmb/jm (Reuters, AFP)

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