31 Mar 2017

Kim Jong-nam's body released to North Korea

6:45 am on 31 March 2017

Malaysia has released the body of the assassinated half-brother of North Korea's leader after negotiations with Pyongyang.

Kim Jong Nam

Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has been murdered in Malaysia Photo: AFP

Kim Jong Nam was murdered at Kuala Lumpur airport with a lethal nerve agent last month.

The assassination led to a major diplomatic dispute between Malaysia and North Korea.

Malaysia has not directly blamed North Korea for the killing, but there is widespread suspicion Pyongyang was responsible.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said nine Malaysians barred from leaving North Korea had permission to return home. He said all North Koreans were allowed to leave Malaysia.

The two countries banned each other's citizens from leaving during diplomatic row over the killing.

BBC South-East Asia correspondent Jonathan Head said that probably included three North Koreans wanted by Malaysian police in connection with the killing.

Malaysia expressed outrage earlier this month over what it described as North Korea holding its citizens hostage.

It appears to have acceded to North Korea's wishes to get the Malaysians released, Mr Head said.

Mr Najib said: "Many challenges were overcome to ensure the return of our fellow Malaysians".

"The government believes strongly in the principles of justice and sovereignty. Our police investigation into this serious crime on Malaysian soil will continue.

"I have instructed for all possible measures to be taken to bring those responsible for this murder to justice."

Kim Jong Nam, who was the estranged, elder half-brother of Kim Jong-un, was passed over for the North Korean succession. He was living in the Chinese territory of Macau when he died. It is not clear where his wife and children are.

Accused claim they thought it was a prank

Two women - one Vietnamese woman and one Indonesian - have been charged with killing Mr Kim. Both reportedly believed they were participating in a television prank.

CCTV footage shows two women approach Mr Kim as he waited for a flight and smear VX nerve agent on his face. He died within 20 minutes.

Interpol issued a "red notice" for four North Koreans wanted in connection with the assassination.

Malaysia said the four men were at the airport on the day Mr Kim was killed and had since left the country. They were thought to be in North Korea.

A red notice is the nearest equivalent to an international arrest warrant. The move is unlikely to result in arrests as North Korea is not a member of Interpol.

The four named in the Interpol red notice are Ri Ji Hyon, 33, Hong Song Hac, 34, O Jong Gil, 55, and Ri Jae Nam, 57.

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