Malaysia will return the body of the half-brother of North Korea’s leader, the country’s deputy prime minister said Thursday, as police probing the airport assassination arrested a second woman.
South Korea says female agents working for Pyongyang poisoned Kim Jong-Nam as he readied to board a flight on Monday.
North Korea has made no comment on the killing, but its diplomats objected to an autopsy Malaysian investigators carried out, a senior official said.
A woman with an Indonesian passport was taken into custody overnight, a police statement said, and was being quizzed along with a 28-year-old Vietnamese woman detained on Wednesday.
The two women were arrested separately by detectives trying to get to the bottom of the murder of Kim Jong-Nam, the estranged playboy brother of Kim Jong-Un.
The portly 45-year-old had some kind of liquid sprayed in his face after being set upon by two women, Malaysian police have said.
He was rushed to hospital suffering from a seizure, but was dead before he got there.
CCTV images that emerged in Malaysian media, purportedly of one of the suspects, showed an Asian woman wearing a white top with the letters “LOL” emblazoned on the front.
Several more arrests were expected throughout the day, Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Noor Rashid Ibrahim told Malaysian news agency Bernama.
Officers had obtained a seven-day remand order for the first suspect, named as Doan Thi Huong, and for 25-year-old Indonesian passport holder Siti Aishah, Selangor state police chief Abdul Samah Mat told AFP.
Police also arrested a Malaysian man who led them to the second woman and was now helping with investigations, Abdul Samah added.
– Reports of defection –
Kim’s body was Thursday being held at Kuala Lumpur Hospital following an autopsy, the results of which have not yet been released.
Malaysia’s deputy prime minister told reporters he believed North Korea had put in a request to claim the body through the police and the hospital, and that Malaysia was ready to comply.
“We will facilitate the request by any foreign government although there are procedures to be followed. Our policy is that we have to honour our bilateral relations with any foreign country,” Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told reporters.
The killing would not affect ties between the two nations, he added.
But police chief Abdul Samah said no request had been received and an official at the morgue said they had no indication of who would claim the body.
When North Korea protested the post-mortem examination, “we told them to follow Malaysia’s laws”, a senior official involved with the case told AFP.
North Korean embassy officials were seen visiting the hospital’s forensics department in a diplomatic vehicle on Wednesday afternoon and again overnight.
If confirmed, the assassination, which analysts said could have been ordered over reports Kim was readying to defect, would be the highest-profile death under the watch of the North’s young leader Kim Jong-Un.
Jong-Nam was the eldest son of Kim Jong-Il, but on his father’s death in 2011 the succession went to Jong-Un, who was born to the former leader’s third wife.
The first-born had at one time been set to assume the leadership of his isolated country, but fell out of favour after an embarrassing attempt to get into Japan on a fake passport in 2001.
He has since lived in exile, with much of his time spent in the gambling enclave of Macau, where he was believed to have enjoyed some protection from Chinese security forces.
Known as an advocate of reform in the North and believed to have ties with Beijing’s elite, Jong-Nam once told Japanese reporters that he opposed his country’s dynastic system.
Reports of purges and executions have emerged from Jong-Un’s North Korea in recent years, as the young leader tries to strengthen his grip on power in the face of international pressure over his country’s nuclear and missile programmes.