SEOUL â Malaysian police are searching for a diplomat and an airline employee, taking to eight the number of North Koreans suspected in the involvement in the brazen, public assassination of the half brother of the reclusive nationâs leader.
In the latest twist in a plot straight out of a movie, an attempted break-in was reported at the hospital morgue where Kim Jong Namâs body is being held â against North Koreaâs wishes. Photos from the scene showed heavy security around the hospital, with armed men in SWAT-like gear.
Speculation over the killing of Kim Jong Nam had centered on his estranged half brotherâs regime in Pyongyang, and evidence is mounting that North Korea may have been behind the attack at Kuala Lumpur airport Feb. 13.
Malaysian police said Wednesday that they wanted to speak to Hyon Kwang Song, the second secretary at the North Korean embassy in Malaysia, and Kim Uk Il, who works for Air Koryo. The state airline used to fly between Pyongyang and Kuala Lumpur, but the route was suspended in 2014.
Both were still believed to be in Malaysia, said Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar, adding that he had asked the embassy to locate them.
âI have requested the two suspects to come forward to assist in the investigation, failing which police will issue a warrant for their arrest,â he told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.
A North Korean man, a scientist who had been living in Kuala Lumpur for the past year, is already in custody, and Malaysian police have named four other North Koreans who they want to talk to in relation to the killing. All four left Kuala Lumpur on the day of the attack and took a very circuitous route, via Dubai and Vladivostok, back to Pyongyang.
But Kuala Lumpur has asked for the men to be returned for questioning, vowing it will continue to investigate the killing even if it takes years. Mayalsiaâs ambassador to Pyongyang arrived back in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, having been recalled for âconsultations.â
North Korea and Malaysia have become locked in an increasingly acrimonious diplomatic row over the murder, with the North Korean embassy accusing the Malaysian government of trying to make Pyongyang look bad and of conducting an autopsy against its wishes.
The Kuala Lumpur government has responded that it is following established procedures following a suspicious death and that it will adhere to the rule of law.
The initial results of the autopsy ruled out a heart attack and did not show any evidence of puncture wounds on the body. Authorities are now waiting for toxicology results.
Kim Jong Nam, who has lived outside North Korea for about 15 years and is believed to have met his younger half brother only once, was checking in for a flight at Kuala Lumpur airport last week when two women ambushed him, smearing some kind of substance on his face.
Security camera footage shows them running away afterwards, while Kim sought help from airport staff, miming what had happened and then being escorted to the airport medical clinic. The 45-year-old was put in an ambulance but died on the way to hospital.
Malaysian authorities have said they will not release his body without DNA identification. Kim Jong Namâs 22-year-old son, Kim Han Sol, was reported to have flown into Kuala Lumpur on Monday night but has not been seen, and authorities said no one has come in to claim the body or provide a DNA sample.
Armed men have been stationed around the hospital morgue, perhaps to protect Kim Han Sol if he did go to claim the body, or perhaps to guard against potential body-snatchers.
âThere were attempts by someone to break into the hospital mortuary,â Khalid said at a press conference. âWe had to take precautions. We will not allow anyone to tamper with the mortuary.â
The police chief also rejected the assertions by the two women arrested for carrying out the attack, one Vietnamese and the other Indonesian, that they were tricked into taking part, thinking that they were playing a prank on someone as part of a TV comedy show.
Khalid said the women clearly knew that they were involved in a serious situation, with security camera footage showing them rushing to the bathroom immediately after the attack to wash the toxic substance off their hands.
âWe are ruling out the possibility that the women thought the attack was a prank or even that they believed they were shooting a television show,â he said.
The North Korean embassy Wednesday called for the three foreign suspects to be released immediately, saying the Vietnamese and Indonesian women and the North Korean man had been âarrested unreasonably.â