SEPANG - Malaysian police believed four North Korean operatives orchestrated the murder of Mr Kim Jong Nam, half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and watched from a close distance as their hitmen - two foreign women - carried out the mission .
CCTV footage showed three of the North Korean men watching from an eatery called Bibik Heritage, located about 50m from the crime scene at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) on Monday (Feb 13), the New Straits Times (NST) reported on Saturday.
They were at the eatery from 7.30am until the attack was carried out.
The fourth man trailed Kim Jong Nam closely as the attack unfolded, according to the NST report.
The newspaper said the masterminds had been tracking their victim's movements for about a year to establish his travel patterns, which included flying between Macau, Singapore and Malaysia. It added that Kim Jong Nam, 45, was in Singapore recently.
The NST report came as police said on Saturday that they had arrested a North Korean man in connection with the murder.
The two women who carried out the attack had also b een arrested. They are Siti Aisyah, a 25-year-old Indonesian, and Doan Thi Huong, a 29-year-old with a Vietnamese passport.
Siti Aisyah's Malaysian boyfriend was also detained to assist with police investigations.
Police took the women to the crime scene on Friday to re-enact the attack, said the NST report.
Based on CCTV recordings, the attack happened at 8.59am on Monday and it took less than five seconds, NST reported.
Kim Jong Nam was standing in front of the self-service check-in kiosks on level three of the KLIA2 when the women struck. Siti Aisyah distracted him, while Doan Thi Huong pounced on him, grabbed him in a chokehold position and administered the poison. The women then left the scene in different directions.
The CCTV footage showed Doan Thi Huong fleeing the scene looking panicky, said NST. She left the airport for Sky Star Hotel where an employee noticed she took out several RM50 notes from a thick stack of bills to pay for the room deposit, according to the report.
The employee also revealed that she was supposed to stay at the hotel until Feb 23. But she was arrested on Feb 15 at KLIA2.
When police took Doan Thi Huong back to her hotel room, they found a powdered substance which they suspected could be the poison used to kill Kim Jong Nam.
NST said she had also stayed at two other hotels - Qlassic Hotel and City View Hotel. In her room at City View Hotel the day before the murder, she cut her long hair to a mid-length bob and left her chopped locks strewn on the floor in the room.
The staff of all three hotels told NST that Doan Thi Huong, who is around 1.65m tall, was always seen holding on tightly to a teddy bear that was about half her height. They said she looked more Korean than Vietnamese.
According to a source, Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong were seen together only at the crime scene, even though they knew each other.
Siti Aisyah stayed at the Flamingo Hotel in Ampang, where she was arrested on Thursday.