By EILEEN NG
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Security camera footage obtained by Japanese television appears to show a careful and deliberate attack last week on the exiled half brother of North Korea’s ruler, while Malaysia said on Feb. 20 it had recalled its ambassador to North Korea amid rising tensions between the nations.
The footage, obtained by Fuji TV and often grainy and blurred, seems to show two women approaching Kim Jong Nam from different directions as he stands at a ticketing kiosk at the budget terminal of the Kuala Lumpur airport. One — apparently a Vietnamese woman now under arrest — comes up behind him and appears to hold something over his mouth for a few seconds.
Then the women turn and calmly walk off in different directions. More footage shows Kim, a long-estranged scion of the family that has ruled North Korea for three generations, walking up to airport workers and security officials, gesturing at his eyes and seemingly asking for help. He then walks alongside as they lead him to the airport clinic.
Fuji TV has not revealed how it acquired the video footage, which was taken by a series of security cameras as Kim arrived for a flight to Macau, where he had a home.
Kim, in his mid-40s, died shortly after the attack, en route to a hospital after suffering a seizure, Malaysian officials say.
Malaysia’s deputy national police chief, Noor Rashid Ibrahim, said that Kim had told airport customer service workers that “two unidentified women had swabbed or had wiped his face with a liquid and that he felt dizzy.”
Since Kim’s death last week, authorities have been trying to piece together details of what appeared to be an assassination. Malaysian police have so far arrested four people carrying identity documents from North Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam.
Investigators are looking for four North Korean men who flew out of Malaysia the same day as the attack, Malaysian police said.
Noor Rashid said the men arrived in Malaysia on different days beginning Jan. 31 and flew out of the country on Feb. 13.
“I am not going disclose where they are,” he told a room packed with journalists, adding that Interpol was helping with the investigation.
The four men, who range in age from their early 30s to late 50s, were traveling on regular — not diplomatic — passports, he said.
Indonesian officials say three of those men transited through Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport after the apparent assassination, leaving on a 10:20 p.m. flight to Dubai.
That was about 12 hours after the attack on Kim Jong Nam. A fourth man flew out of Jakarta on Thursday, Jan. 19, to Bangkok, according to Indonesia’s immigration office spokesman Agung Sampurno.
Police also want to question three other people. Noor Rashid said one was North Korean, but that police had not yet identified the other two. It was not clear if they were suspects or simply wanted for questioning. Malaysian officials said on Feb. 21 that autopsy results are so far inconclusive.
Armed guards have begun 24-hour security around the Malaysian morgue where Kim Jong Nam’s body is being kept after an alleged break-in attempt, officials said on Feb. 22. Malaysian officials said they do not believe the North Koreans were behind the forced entering — a suspect has been identified but they didn’t release any information about the person. It’s also not clear what Malaysian officials classify as a “break-in.”
Investigators also want to speak to Kim Jong Nam’s next of kin to formally identify the body. He is believed to have two sons and a daughter with two women living in Beijing and Macau.
“We haven’t met the next of kin,” Noor Rashid said. “We are trying very hard to get the next of kin to come and to assist us in the investigation.”
Noor Rashid said charges against the four suspects in custody would be determined by prosecutors.
According to police, the Indonesian woman is a spa masseuse and the Malaysian man, a caterer, is believed to be her boyfriend. The Vietnamese woman works at an entertainment outlet and the North Korean man works in the information technology department of a Malaysian company.
The Indonesian woman has told investigators that she was duped into thinking she was part of a comedy show prank.
The case has raised tensions between Malaysia and North Korea. Pyongyang demanded custody of Kim’s body and strongly objected to an autopsy. The Malaysians went ahead with the procedure anyway, saying they were simply following procedure.
Kang Chol, North Korea’s ambassador to Malaysia, said that Malaysia may be “trying to conceal something” and that the autopsy was carried out “unilaterally and excluding our attendance.” On Feb. 20, the Malaysian foreign ministry said it had recalled its ambassador “for consultations” and had summoned Kang to a meeting, “to seek an explanation on the accusations he made against the Government of Malaysia.”
The statement called Kang’s comments “baseless” and said it “takes very seriously any unfounded attempt to tarnish its reputation.”
It said the government had kept the North Korean embassy informed of the situation, telling them that because “the death occurred in Malaysian soil under mysterious circumstances, it is the responsibility of the Malaysian Government to conduct an investigation to identify the cause of death.”
South Korea has been quick to blame North Korea for the death of Kim Jong Nam, who as the eldest son of the late dictator Kim Jong Il was once widely seen as the ruler-in-waiting of the isolated nation. However, he fell out of favor more than a decade ago, and has spent most of his time since then living in China or Southeast Asia.