Woman carrying Vietnamese passport arrested at KL airport as Malaysia scrambles to put together puzzle of Kim Jong Nam's death

South Korea's spy agency suspects two female North Korean agents assassinated the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Malaysia. Malaysian medical authorities are seeking cause of death.PHOTO: REUTERS
Kim Jong-Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
Kim Jong-Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.PHOTO: AFP
 Newspapers showing front pages with images of Kim Jong Nam are seen at a news-stand outside Kuala Lumpur on Feb 15, 2017.
Newspapers showing front pages with images of Kim Jong Nam are seen at a news-stand outside Kuala Lumpur on Feb 15, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS
A woman believed to be one of the assassins who killed Kim Jong Nam is seen on CCTV footage from KLIA2.
A woman believed to be one of the assassins who killed Kim Jong Nam is seen on CCTV footage from KLIA2. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
  • Woman was identified from CCTV footage; police are looking for other suspects
  • Autopsy to determine cause of death completed, report says

Malaysian authorities said they have arrested a female suspect at Kuala Lumpur's airport as they scrambled on Wednesday (Feb 15) to piece together the events leading up to the shocking assassination of Mr Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un. 

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Malaysian police said a female suspect was arrested at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) at 8.20am in connection with the investigation into Mr Kim's death.

According to the police, the woman, a 28-year-old named Doan Thi Huong, was carrying a Vietnamese passport. Police said she was identified from CCTV footage at the airport and was alone at the time of the arrest. 

The Bernama news agency had earlier reported that police had nabbed a woman from Myanmar.

Police are also looking for a few more other suspects, including one woman and four men, Malaysia's The Sun newspaper reported.

Mr Kim was reported to have been poisoned by two unidentified women believed to be North Korean operatives who then fled in a taxi. 

Earlier, a screen grab of CCTV footage showing a blurred image of a fair-skinned woman outside what is believed to be the airport was circulating online after news broke of his death. It was unclear if the woman in the CCTV footage was the woman who was arrested. 

A post mortem on Mr Kim's body was completed on Wednesday evening, The Star cited the district police in Sepang as saying, but the report did not reveal the cause of death or state who would claim the body. Reuters, citing Malaysian government sources, said North Korean officials in Malaysia had objected to an autopsy and demanded that Mr Kim's body be immediately released, but that request was denied. 

Twitter was also abuzz over a tweet by ABC News' Seoul Bureau Chief Joohee Cho claiming that Malaysian police had found the bodies of two women believed to be the operatives. Malaysian police have yet to confirm this. 

Malaysian police on Tuesday confirmed that a North Korean man named Kim Chol, 46, died on the way to hospital based on information from a passport on the man. But some police officials separately told news outlets the man was Kim Jong Nam.

 
 

Mystery surrounds how Mr Kim was killed, with early reports saying it was death by poisoned needles and other reports later saying he was smothered or sprayed with something poisonous.

The common denominator is liquid poison, which one police officer was quoted as saying that it is "more potent than cyanide".

The Chinese-language Oriental Daily cited an unnamed police official as saying that the taxi driver who ferried the two women after the attack on Mr Kim has been arrested.

Malaysia's immigration director-general said Mr Kim was attacked at about 9am on Monday before he cleared immigration checks. It is believed that Mr Kim was alone and was heading towards the departure hall when the attack took place.

He was reported to have entered Malaysia from Macau on Feb 6 and was about to board a flight back to Macau, where his family lives.

KLIA2 largely caters to flights by low-cost carrier AirAsia, which operates direct flights to Macau. On Monday morning, there was a flight to Macau scheduled at 10.50am.

Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai has assured the public that airport is safe and has ordered Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad, operator of KLIA2, to assist in police investigations.

A mortuary van believed to be carrying the body of Mr Kim was seen leaving Putrajaya Hospital on Wednesday morning, headed towards Kuala Lumpur Hospital for a post mortem. Journalists, from local and foreign media, who have been camping outside Putrajaya Hospital's mortuary overnight, caught sight of a white van leaving the hospital at 9am escorted by police cars.

 

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North Korean embassy cars were also seen parked at Kuala Lumpur hospital on Wednesday afternoon, The Star reported, but they left the mortuary compound at around 8pm.

Selangor state criminal investigation department chief Senior Assistant Commissioner Fadzil Ahmat had said that North Korea has requested to claim the body, but Malaysian authorities would need to complete a post mortem first.

However, South Korea said the body would be handed over to Mr Kim's family in Macau.

ltrinna@sph.com.sg