The body of Kim Jong-Nam, the assassinated half-brother of North Korea’s leader, will not be released until his family have provided DNA samples, Malaysia said Friday, despite a request from Pyongyang.
Detectives in Kuala Lumpur are trying to get to the bottom of the cloak-and-dagger murder that South Korea says was carried out by poison-wielding female agents working for their secretive northern neighbour.
Forensic specialists on Friday began testing samples from the dead man’s body to try to determine the toxin that was apparently sprayed in his face as he readied to board a plane earlier this week.
North Korean diplomats objected to the post-mortem examination, Malaysian officials say, but Kuala Lumpur has stood firm, and said Friday it would not release the body until procedures were complete.
“So far no family member or next of kin has come to identify or claim the body. We need a DNA sample of a family member to match the profile of the dead person,” Selangor state police chief Abdul Samah Mat told AFP.
“North Korea has submitted a request to claim the body, but before we release the body we have to identify who the body belongs to,” he said.
DNA from a child, sibling — or even half-sibling — would be enough to provide a “kinship match” and confirm the identity, a Malaysian forensic investigator told AFP. Police were meanwhile questioning two women — one travelling on a Vietnamese passport and the other on an Indonesian document — as well as a Malaysian man.
The drama erupted on Monday morning as Jong-Nam, the estranged elder brother of Kim Jong-Un, readied to board a plane to Macau.
Malaysian police say the chubby 45-year-old was jumped by two women who squirted some kind of liquid in his face. Jong-Nam told staff he was suffering from a headache and was taken to the airport clinic grimacing in pain, according to Malaysian media citing CCTV footage from the airport.
One of the women walked to a taxi rank immediately after the attack, according to the same footage.
He was rushed to hospital suffering from a seizure but was dead before he arrived.
South Korea has pointed the finger of blame at the North, citing a “standing order” from Jong-Un to kill his sibling and a failed assassination bid in 2012 after he criticised the regime.
A Japanese journalist who knew and wrote a book on Jong-Nam on Friday said he was a courageous man who sought to reform his country.
“Even if it put him in danger, he wanted to tell his opinions to Pyongyang through me or other media,” Yoji Gomi said in Tokyo.
– Woman in ‘LOL’ top –
Pyongyang has made no comment on the killing, and there has been no mention of it in North Korean media.
AFP correspondents in Pyongyang say celebrations to mark the birthday of Kim Jong-Il, the late father of both men, have gone ahead without reference to the death.
Malaysian police on Wednesday arrested a 28-year-old woman carrying a Vietnamese passport which identified her as Doan Thi Huong. Local media said she was the woman seen in CCTV images from the airport wearing a white top with the letters “LOL” emblazoned on the front.
Officers later arrested Muhammad Farid Bin Jalaluddin, a 26-year-old Malaysian man. He led them to his girlfriend, a 25-year-old Indonesian national named Siti Aishah. Indonesian embassy officials said they were providing Aishah with legal assistance.
Selangor state police chief Abdul Samah earlier told AFP he was looking for several more suspects, but declined to say how many were being sought.
First-born Jong-Nam was once thought to be the natural successor to his father, but on Kim Jong-Il’s death in 2011 the succession went to Jong-Un, who was born to the former leader’s third wife.
Reports of purges and executions have emerged from the current regime as Jong-Un tries to strengthen his grip on power in the face of international pressure over nuclear and missile programmes.
The most notable of these was the 2013 execution for treason of the young leader’s influential uncle, Jang Song-Thaek.