Two women and a man have been arrested over the killing of Kim Jong Nam, the North Korean leader’s half brother who was reportedly poisoned this week by a pair of female assassins as he waited for a flight in Malaysia.
Investigators are trying to piece together the details of a death that set off a torrent of speculation over whether Kim Jong Un dispatched a hit squad to kill his estranged older sibling.
The suspects were picked up separately on Wednesday and Thursday. The female suspects were identified using surveillance footage from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, where Kim Jong Nam suddenly fell ill Monday morning before dying on the way to the hospital.
One of the women had Vietnamese travel documents and the other held an Indonesian passport.
Indonesia’s foreign ministry has confirmed the arrest of a female national in connection with the killing.
A still photo of the airport surveillance video showed one of the suspects in a white T-shirt with “LOL” across the front.
On Thursday afternoon, police said they had detained a Malaysian man believed to be the boyfriend of the Indonesian suspect.
An autopsy has been concluded and could reveal whether Kim Jong Nam was poisoned, and possibly shed light on the tales of intrigue that have rippled since his death: the female assassins, the broad daylight killing, the estranged dictator-sibling looking to kill him.
Kim Jong Nam, who was 45 or 46, was estranged from his North Korean relatives and had been living abroad for years. He reportedly fell out of favour with his father when he was caught trying to enter Japan on a false passport in 2001, saying he wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland.
According to two senior Malaysian government officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Kim Jong Nam told medical workers before he died that he had been attacked with a chemical spray.
Since taking power upon his father’s death in late 2011, Kim Jong Un has executed or purged a number of high-level government officials in what the South Korean government has described as a “reign of terror.”
South Korea’s spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, said that North Korea had been trying for five years to kill Kim Jong Nam.
The NIS also cited a “genuine” attempt by North Korea to kill Kim Jong Nam in 2012, lawmakers said. The NIS told them that Kim Jong Nam sent a letter to Kim Jong Un in April 2012, after the assassination attempt, begging for the lives of himself and his family.