Malaysian police said Wednesday the two women suspected of poisoning the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in an apparent assassination knew what they were doing and had been trained to do it.
At least one of the women arrested in connection with the death of Kim Jong Nam has claimed that she was tricked into attacking him at an airport in Kuala Lumpur, believing she was taking part in a prank TV show.
“We strongly believe it is a planned thing and that they have been trained to do that,” Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters. “This is not just like shooting a movie.”
Security camera video from the airport shows one of the women grabbing Kim from behind and forcibly holding something over his face.
Khalid said Wednesday it was clear from that video that the women is holding her hands away from herself as she walks away from Kim and toward a bathroom, “so she knew very well that it is toxic and she needs to wash her hands.”
Two other people have already been arrested in connection with the attack, and authorities say they are trying to find additional suspects.
Khalid said one person they are now seeking is a top North Korean diplomat who serves as the second secretary at the country’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur. Another suspect is an employee of North Korea’s state-owned airline.
Malaysian health officials have conducted an autopsy on Kim, but are waiting on the results of laboratory tests in order to determine his cause of death.
Noor Hisham Abdullah, director of general health at the Malaysian health ministry, told reporters Tuesday the autopsy showed no evidence of a heart attack or anything obvious that suggested any puncture wounds.
Earlier this week, North Korea’s envoy to Kuala Lumpur, Kang Chol, called for a joint probe into the death, telling reporters that North Korea “cannot trust the investigation by the Malaysian police.”
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak responded by saying his country had no reason “to paint the North Koreans in a bad light,” and expressed “absolute confidence” in the objectivity of the investigation.
The father of Doan Thi Huong, who has been detained in connection with the case, spoke with VOA’s Vietnamese service about his daughter’s alleged role in the death of Kim Jong Nam.
“I couldn’t know what she did,” Doan Van Thanh told VOA Vietnamese. “We can’t. She didn’t even let us know where she goes. She did get home on January 25 and left four days later.
“She left and we know nothing since then,” he added.
Doan described his daughter as “a good and hard-working girl. She’s not a bad girl.”
Local authorities in Vietnam confirmed the woman’s identity as Vietnam-born Doan Thi Huong, 29, a resident of Nghia Binh Commune, Nghia Hung District, Nam Dinh province.
Vu Van Cuong, chairman of the People’s Committee of the Nghia Binh Commune, also told VOA Vietnamese that the woman “was a quiet person who had little contact with neighbors.”
He added “Huong used to be a medical student” who went to Hanoi “for work years ago. Her parents said they didn’t know where she lived in Hanoi nor what she did for a living. They said she had traveled overseas, but it was unclear where.”
Doan’s father is a disabled veteran and her mother died in 2014.
“Her family is struggling with poverty,” the commune leader told VOA Vietnamese. “She has an older brother and three older sisters. All of them are poor. They’re all married and live in this commune.”
Kim Jong Nam was once considered the heir apparent to lead North Korea, but he fell out of favor with his father Kim Jong Il after a failed 2001 attempt to enter Japan on a forged passport to visit Disneyland, and was basically exiled to the Chinese controlled territory of Macau.
South Korea’s spy agency says Kim Jong Un issued a “standing order” for his half-brother’s assassination after taking power, and there was a failed attempt in 2012. During a National Security Council meeting Monday, South Korean Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn said the deadly attack revealed Pyongyang’s “reckless and brutal nature.”
Kim Jong Nam was reportedly considered a threat to his half-brother’s rule because of his outspoken criticism of the authoritarian regime.
There has been speculation that China is getting tired of North Korea’s repeated nuclear and missile tests in defiance of international sanctions and that the apparent assassination of Kim John Nam may have led to the Chinese decision Saturday to suspend all coal imports from the North. Coal exports are a vital source of revenue for the Pyongyang government.