About the Author
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
Malaysian police announced on Sunday that five more identified North Korean suspects and two unidentified North Koreans were involved in the murder of Kim Jong Nam, the now-deceased estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The police named 33-year-old Ri Ji Hyon, who entered Malaysia on February 4, and 34-year-old Hong Sang Hac, who entered the country on January 31, as well as 55-year-old O Jong Gil and 57-year-old Ri Jae Nam who entered the country on the February 7 and 1 respectively, as being involved in last Monday’s murder.
All four are believed to flee Malaysia on February 13, but the police didn’t reveal the flight’s destination.
They also named another North Korean, Ri Ji U, who allegedly also goes by the name of James, as being wanted for questioning to “assist in the investigation,” but could not say when or if he had left Malaysia.
Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Noor Rashid Ibrahim said police are also seeking two unidentified suspects believed to be North Koreans aiding the investigation
— Sumisha Naidu (@SumishaCNA) February 19, 2017
Malaysian police are working in coordination with Interpol to secure the custody of seven North Korean suspects, but North Korea is not a member of Interpol.
Noor Rashid admitted that Kim’s case is being investigated as a “murder”, but declined to confirm whether North Korea was involved.
Noor Rashid also confirmed Kim was “poisoned,” but said the investigation was “still in the process” when asked whether they could confirm the kind of poison.
Malaysian police didn’t officially announce the results of Kim’s post-mortem, as the hospital hasn’t yet provided the result. The police have so far classified Kim’s case as “sudden death,” not murder.
The police also declined to comment on whether Kim was poisoned with chemical spray or attacked with a poisoned handkerchief.
When asked whether Kim’s body would be released to North Korea, Noor Rashid said there has been no official request from Kim’s next of kin up to now.
Ri Jong Chol, 46-year-old North Korean, was arrested in Selangor on Friday night. Royal Malaysia Police (RMP) said on Saturday that Ri is suspected to have been “involved in the death of Kim.”
Noor Rashid said on Sunday Ri entered Malaysia on August 6, 2016, and worked in the IT department of a company based in Malaysia.
Ri, the first North Korean suspect over the murder of Kim, was known to be a chemical expert, Malaysian local outlet The Star reported on Sunday morning. But the police on Sunday declined to confirm these claims.
Ri graduated in the science and medicine field at a North Korea-based university in 2000, and he was also involved in research at a center in Kolkata, India until 2011, The Star added. Ri returned to Pyongyang and subsequently got a job at an IT company in Malaysia, local media said.
Police said 46-year-old Ri Jong Chol was believed to be an agent of North Korean spy agency the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), Malaysian local media New Straits Times reported on Sunday, ahead of the news conference.
Ri is believed to be one of the four male suspects who are believed to have given an order to two female accomplices to murder Kim at Kuala Lumpur airport on Monday morning, New Straits Times added.
The four men were captured on closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2), and they were seen observing the assassination from a nearby restaurant.
North Korea’s Ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol on Friday said the DPRK government would reject the results of any autopsy on Kim Jong Nam, while also accusing the Malaysian government of working with the North’s enemies.
Kang’s unexpected news conference came a few hours after the arrest of a male North Korean suspect over Kim’s murder.
Ambassador Kang maintained Malaysian police ignored his request to release the body without further delay, and this “strongly suggests that the Malaysian side is trying to conceal something which needs more time” and is trying to deceive the North.
The first female suspect, in possession of a Vietnamese passport, was detained on Wednesday morning at Kuala Lumpur International Airport’s low-cost KLIA2 terminal, with the 28-year-old Doan Thi Huong apparently returning to the scene of Monday’s crime.
A second female suspect with an Indonesian passport, the 25-year-old Siti Aishah, was arrested on Thursday morning.
Selangor police chief, Datuk Abdul Samah Mat, told NK News that the two women would be remanded for seven days from Thursday.
Two female suspects were identified from CCTV footage at the airport. Malaysian media released the CCTV footage that reportedly shows the suspect at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 at the time of the alleged murder.
Police arrested a third person for questioning on the death of Kim on Wednesday evening.
The man is a Malaysian citizen, named by police as 26-year-old Muhammad Farid Bin Jalaluddin, and said by police to be the boyfriend of a female suspect who was arrested a few hours later, an allegedly Indonesian woman who documents identified as Siti Aishah.
Featured Image: Sumisha Naidu, Malaysian Police. The suspects in order are: O Jong Hak, Ri Jae Nam, Ri Ji Hyon, Hong Song Hac