Malaysian authorities arrest fourth suspect in killing of Kim Jong Nam, half-brother of North Korean leader

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Malaysian authorities on Friday arrested North Korean man Ri Jong Chol, 46, on suspicion of involvement in the murder of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother to Kim Jong Un, leader of North Korea. He died in Malaysia on Monday morning. According to South Korean officials, he was killed by a fast-acting poison administered by two women who approached him in Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Ri is now the fourth subject in custody. On Wednesday, Malaysian authorities said, they arrested 26-year-old taxi driver Muhammad Farid Bin Jalaluddin, whom they believed was the boyfriend of one of the women who approached Kim Jong Nam in the airport on Monday. Indonesia's Minister of Foreign affairs confirmed one of the women, Siti Aishah, is an Indonesian citizen, but confirmation was not then available on whether her counterpart, whose name was given as Doan Thi Huong, is actually Vietnamese or was merely carrying a Vietnamese passport. Selangor State Police Chief Abdul Samah Mat told CNN Jalaluddin helped the police find Aishah. The two women are to be held for seven days.

In findings published in the New Straits Times, CCTV footage from the airport showed two women, ostensibly Aishah and Doan, walking up to Kim near the self-check-in stand. One of them distracted him while the other grabbed his face or neck and administered the poison, though reports differ as to whether she used a needle, spray or impregnated cloth. Kim Jong Nam fell sick and went to the airport clinic, from which he was sent to the hospital by ambulance. He died before reaching the hospital. One of the two women was wearing a T-shirt reading "LOL" when she approached Kim. Aishah allegedly told police she thought she had been hired to perform a prank for a television show and that she had been hired to spray people with liquid before.

Kim had been traveling under the alias Kim Chol and was returning to Macau where he has lived with his family since leaving North Korea.

Kim Jong Nam, 45, was the oldest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. His mother was Kim Jong Il's mistress Song Hye Rim and he was raised separately from his half-brothers. He was considered the elder Kim's heir apparent but lost favor after an incident in 2001 when he used a fake passport in an attempt to visit Japan. Kim has lived outside of North Korea for many years and did not attend his father's funeral in 2011. He favored more economic reform for North Korea and once told Japanese writer Yoji Gomi he did not believe Kim Jong Un would be a good leader:

"The Kim Jong-un regime will not last long," said Kim to Gomi in 2012. "Without reforms, North Korea will collapse, and when such changes take place, the regime will collapse."

South Korea's national intelligence agency accused the North Korean government of having Kim killed. The Korean Institute for Defense Analyses's Kim Chang-su stated Kim Jong Un may have felt his brother was a threat to his position. In the years since Kim Jong Un became leader, many people so perceived, including his uncle and advisor Jang Song Thaek, have ended up dead. Jang was executed for treason. Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi dismissed allegations North Korea arranged Kim's death as "only speculation."

Malaysian authorities completed the autopsy of Kim Jong Nam earlier this week over objections from the North Korean government but announced Thursday they would not release the body to North Korea or disclose the results without a Kim family DNA sample. The North Korean government already said it won't accept the validity of an autopsy done without its permission or oversight.

This story has updates
See Break-in attempted at mortuary housing remains of Kim Jong Nam, February 23, 2017