North Korean female agents using poisoned needles have assassinated the half-brother of the North’s leader Kim Jong-Un in Malaysia, South Korean media reported Tuesday.
Officials in Seoul and Kuala Lumpur could not confirm the death of Kim Jong-Nam, once seen as heir apparent in the North.
Malaysian police said an unidentified Korean had been taken sick at Kuala Lumpur International Airport and since died.
If confirmed, it would be the highest-profile death under the Kim Jong-Un regime since the execution of the leader’s uncle Jang Song-Thaek in December 2013.
Kim Jong-Un has been trying to strengthen his grip on power in the face of growing international pressure over his country’s nuclear and missile programs. He has reportedly staged a series of executions.’
The latest launch of a new intermediate-range missile on Sunday brought UN Security Council condemnation and vows of a strong response from US President Donald Trump.
South Korea’s national news agency Yonhap quoted a source as saying agents of the North’s spy agency, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, carried out the assassination on Monday by taking advantage of a security loophole between Jong-Nam’s bodyguards and Malaysian police at the airport.
The 45-year-old was killed by two unidentified female agents using poisoned needles at the airport, according to South Korean broadcaster TV Chosun.
It said the women hailed a cab and fled immediately afterwards.
In Malaysia, the police chief in charge of Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Assistant Commissioner Abdul Aziz Ali, told AFP a Korean in his forties was found sick at the airport on Monday.
Airport authorities rushed him to hospital and he died on the way, the police chief said.
“I cannot reveal that,” he said when asked if the dead person’s name was Kim Jong-Nam.
“The body is in the Putrajaya Hospital. The case is under investigation.”
Kim Jong-Nam, the eldest son of former leader Kim Jong-Il, was once seen as heir apparent but fell out of favour following an embarrassing botched attempt in 2001 to enter Japan on a forged passport and visit Disneyland.
He has since lived in virtual exile, mainly in the Chinese territory of Macau. Jong-Nam’s half-brother Jong-Un took over as leader when their father died in December 2011.