Intrigue surrounds woman arrested in apparent assassination of N. Korean leader's brother Kim Jong Nam

The woman was carrying Vietnamese travel documents when she was arrested today.

ByABC News
February 15, 2017, 12:29 PM

— -- Intrigue and mystery surrounds a female suspect arrested in Malaysia in connection with the apparent assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s exiled half-brother, Kim Jong Nam.

A woman carrying Vietnamese travel documents bearing the name Doan Thi Huong was arrested today at Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2, where Kim Jong Nam was allegedly attacked, police said. The suspect was alone at the time of the arrest and she was identified using surveillance footage from the airport, according to a statement from the Royal Malaysia Police.

The woman’s travel documents also showed a birth date of May 1998 and birthplace of Nam Dinh, Vietnam, police said. It’s unclear whether the documents were genuine.

Police said the investigation is ongoing and they are looking for more suspects.

According to the Royal Malaysia Police, a North Korean man who “sought initial medical assistance” at the customer service counter in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 on Monday died as he was being transported to the hospital. Police said the 46-year-old man was carrying North Korean travel documents bearing the name Kim Chol with a birth date of June 1970 and birthplace of Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea.

The cause of death remains under investigation, police said.

The name on the travel documents, Kim Chol, is the name of another brother of Kim Jong Un, but the birthdate matches the reported age of Kim Jong Nam, who is believed to be 45 or 46.

Two senior Malaysian government officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case involves sensitive diplomacy, told The Associated Press that the victim was Kim Jong Nam, the estranged older half-brother of North Korea’s leader who had been living abroad for years.

Kim Jong Nam was targeted on Monday in the airport’s shopping area before he went through immigration control for his flight to Macau, where he is believed to have been living in recent years. He told medical workers before he died that he had been attacked at the airport with a chemical spray, the Malaysian officials told the AP.

PHOTO: Police officers stand outside the Kuala Lumpur Hospital where the body of Kim Jong Nam is held for autopsy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Feb. 15, 2017.
Police officers stand outside the Kuala Lumpur Hospital where the body of Kim Jong Nam is held for autopsy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Feb. 15, 2017.

Multiple South Korean media reports, citing unidentified government sources, said two women believed to be North Korean agents killed Kim Jong Nam with some kind of poison before fleeing the scene in a taxi.

Surveillance footage that appears to be from the domestic check-in area at the Kuala Lumpur airport has surfaced today, but has not been verified by Malaysian police. The footage shows two women approaching a man who resembles Kim Jong Nam. One woman is wearing a white t-shirt adorned with the letters “LOL.” It's unclear whether the female suspect arrested today is one of the women seen in the surveillance footage.

The South Korean Unification Ministry said today it recognized that the North Korean man who died in Malaysia’s capital was “certainly Kim Jong Nam.” The ministry did not offer further details on the alleged murder but said the South Korean government would inspect the security system for North Korean defectors and officials of South-North exchange organizations, as there had been assassinations or assassination threats by North Korea against defectors in the South.

"The government is certainly judging that the murdered person is certainly Kim Jong Nam,” the ministry’s spokesman, Jeong Joon-hee, said in Korean at a press briefing in Seoul. “The Malaysian government did not specify [that the murdered man is Kim Jong Nam]. Since this case is still being investigated, we should wait for details until the Malaysian government makes an announcement [on details of the murder]. I will only say that the South Korean government will closely cooperate with the Malaysian government."

A convoy was seen leaving the hospital morgue in Kuala Lumpur today where Kim Jong Nam’s body was reportedly being held, according to the AP.

The U.S. Department of State told ABC News on Tuesday that it was aware of the reports about Kim Jong Nam’s alleged assassination and referred questions to Malaysian authorities. The South Korean embassy in Washington, D.C., said it did not have independent confirmation of the reports but was monitoring media coverage.

As Kim Jong Il’s eldest son, Kim Jong Nam was initially seen as the heir-apparent to the late leader of North Korea’s regime. But Kim Jong Nam was pushed out of the succession plan and his younger half-brother, Kim Jong Un, inherited their father’s power.

Kim Jong Nam reportedly fell out of favor after he was caught trying to enter Japan on a false passport in 2001, saying he wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

ABC News’ Conor Finnegan, Benjamin Gittleson, Joshua Hoyos and Luis Martinez contributed to this report. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

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