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Kim Jong-nam: Killing could be sign of ‘brutal’ N Korean regime

South Korea has confirmed that the half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has been killed in Malaysia.

Kim Jong-nam died after an apparent poison attack in the airport in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, on Monday.

No motive has been confirmed and the attackers have not been identified.

South Korea’s acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn said if North Korea was found to be responsible, it would show its “brutality and inhumane nature”.

It would be the most high-profile death at the hands of the North Korean leadership since Kim Jong-un’s uncle, Chang Song-thaek, was executed in 2013.

Mr Hwang said South Korea was “keeping close tabs on North Korea’s movements”.

Women seen in footage

Mr Kim was attacked while preparing to board a flight home to Macau from the budget terminal outside Kuala Lumpur. His death was only made public on Tuesday.

Police van escorts a hospital van leaving Putrajaya hospital, Malaysia (15 Feb 2017)Image copyrightAP
Image captionA van was seen leaving Putrajaya hospital in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday morning with a police escort

The chief police officer of Royal Malaysian police, Datuk Sri Abu Samad, has said investigations are still in progress and that a post-mortem examination is expected to be completed soon.

He said Malaysian officials had not yet formally confirmed the identify of the deceased, as he was using a passport under a different name, Kim Chol.

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In response to reports that North Korea had asked to claim the body, he said there had been no official request.

Police are studying security camera footage from the airport. Images circulating in the media have focused on two women seen alongside Mr Kim, who were later seen leaving the scene in a taxi.

Unnamed US government sources have said they believe he was poisoned by North Korean agents.

The director of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), Lee Byung-ho, told South Korean MPs that Pyongyang had wanted to kill Kim Jong-nam for several years, but that he was being protected by China.

What happened?

Kim Jong-nam was attacked at about 09:00 (01:00 GMT) on Monday while waiting at the budget terminal of Kuala Lumpur International Airport for a 10:00 flight to Macau, Malaysia’s Star newspaper reports, quoting police.

Exactly how the attack unfolded is still unclear. Officials and witnesses have variously said he was splashed with a chemical or had a cloth placed over his face. Earlier reports spoke of a “spray” being used or a needle.

He died on the way to hospital.

Why the delay in identifying him?

South Korean media named the victim early on Tuesday but the Malaysian authorities initially reported only the sudden death of an unnamed North Korean national who had fallen ill at the airport.

Police then released a statement which quoted the victim’s travel document identifying him as “Kim Chol”, born on 10 June 1970. Kim Jong-nam is believed to have been born on 10 May 1971.

It was not the first time Mr Kim had travelled under an assumed identity: he was caught trying to enter Japan using a false passport in 2001. He told officials he had been planning to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

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Why was he flying to China?

Bypassed in favour of his youngest half-brother for succession when their father died in 2011, Kim Jong-nam kept a low profile, spending most of his time overseas in Macau, mainland China and Singapore.

The Tokyo Disneyland incident is thought to have spoilt his chances of succeeding Kim Jong-il, who died in 2011.

BBC graphic

He later spoke out against his family’s dynastic control of North Korea and in a 2012 book, was quoted as saying he believed his younger half-brother lacked leadership qualities.

But he had said he was not interested in assuming the leadership himself.

Was this an assassination?

Mr Kim was reportedly targeted for assassination in the past.

A North Korean spy jailed by South Korea in 2012 was reported to have admitted trying to organise a hit-and-run accident targeting him.

The secretive state has a long history of sending agents overseas to carry out assassinations, attacks and kidnappings.

Read more at BBC.co.uk

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