KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Three people have now been arrested in connection with the apparent fatal poisoning of the half-brother of North Korea’s leader, with a Malaysian man held to “assist” in the investigation, police said Thursday.
The man, 26-year-old Muhammad Farid bin Jalaluddin, has been identified as the boyfriend of an Indonesian woman arrested earlier Thursday, suspected of being one of the two women who carried out the brazen attack at Kuala Lumpur airport this week on Kim Jong Nam, the older half-brother of Kim Jong Un.
“Suspect is currently remanded in custody to assist investigation,” Khalid Abu Bakar, the inspector-general of police, said in a statement.
Kim Jong Nam, 45, was attacked by two women at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Monday as he went to check in for a flight to Macau, his main base since he went into exile about 15 years ago. They grabbed him and sprayed some kind of poison on his face.
He sought medical help at the airport but died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.
Two women were captured on surveillance video leaving the scene by taxi, sparking a nationwide hunt for them.
One woman, who was traveling on a Vietnamese passport that identified her as 29-year-old Doan Thi Huong, was arrested Wednesday as she tried to fly out of Kuala Lumpur.
She told police she was tricked into attacking Kim Jong Nam, saying she thought she was just playing a prank on the man, the Star newspaper reported.
She also said she was abandoned by the other woman and four men who were involved in the attack. They had all been staying at a hotel not far from the airport, she told police, and when they left her, she decided to fly to Vietnam from the terminal where the attack took place.
A second woman, identified as Siti Aishah, a 25-year-old Indonesian, was arrested early Thursday.
“She was also positively identified from the CCTV footage at the airport and was alone at the time of arrest,” Abu Bakar said in an earlier statement.
It was not immediately clear whether the women were using fake passports, but the Indonesia Foreign Ministry confirmed, based on information provided by the Malaysian police, that the Aishah was an Indonesian citizen and has requested consular access to her.
Separately, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Malaysia’s deputy prime minister, confirmed that the man who was killed was indeed Kim Jong Nam, the son of former leader Kim Jong Il and older half-brother of Kim Jong Un.
The man was carrying North Korean passport bearing the name “Kim Chol,” a known alias for Kim Jong Nam.
“The North Korean embassy has confirmed the identity. This is what the police informed us,” Zahid told reporters. Kim Jong Nam appeared to have had two passports with two different names – one “authentic” and one an “undercover document,” he said.
However, although the autopsy has now been completed – despite protests from North Korean diplomats based in Kuala Lumpur, who wanted to body released to them immediately – there is still no word on the cause of death.
A North Korean man driving a black Mercedes with North Korean diplomatic plates refused to answer a journalist’s questions when he drove into the embassy in Kuala Lumpur Thursday afternoon.
Embassy staff have removed the buzzer from the gate to stop journalists from ringing it.
Malaysia would return Kim Jong Nam’s body to North Korea, Zahid said Thursday, but there were still “procedures to be followed.”
“Our policy is that we have to honor our bilateral relations with any foreign country,” he told reporters.