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Malaysia arrests another suspect over killing of N Korean leader's half brother

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A Malaysian police officer mans the main gate of the forensic wing at Hospital Kuala Lumpur in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, February 17, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Malaysian police have detained a fourth suspect in connection with the assassination of North Korean leader's half brother in Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur, as health authorities say some two weeks are needed to publish a final report on the cause of Kim Jong-nam's death.

According to a police statement released on Saturday, security forces detained a 46-year-old North Korean male individual, identified as Ri Jong-chol, on Friday night, saying that "he is suspected to be involved in the death of a North Korean male," referring to the killing of Jong-nam that occurred on February 13.

The statement added that the suspect carried a Malaysian i-Kad, which is an identification card given to foreign workers in the country, making him the first North Korean suspect to be arrested in the controversial case.

Malaysian police officials announced on February 14 that 46-year-old Jong-nam had been walking through the departure hall at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, when he was attacked by two female assailants, reportedly being sprayed by some fast-acting toxic agent over his face.

Police in Malaysia have so far arrested two women and a man in connection with the killing. One of the arrested women was traveling on a Vietnamese passport and the other on an Indonesian document. The man is a Malaysian national.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Health Minister S. Subramaniam said Jong-nam's body had been in a Kuala Lumpur morgue since February 15, when forensic officials carried out an autopsy on the corpse.

"Normally it will take about two weeks to find out what was the cause of death.... Until we find something conclusive we will not be able to release the report," the Malaysian minister said.

North Korea's Ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol addresses the media on February 18, 2017 at the main gate of the forensic wing at Kuala Lumpur Hospital. (Photo by AFP)

Pyongyang, however, said on Saturday that it would flatly reject Malaysia's autopsy report on the case, accusing Kuala Lumpur of "colluding with outside forces," in a veiled reference to South Korea, its arch-rival.

North Korean Ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol said Kuala Lumpur "forced the post-mortem without our permission and witnessing." His comments were the first official remarks from the reclusive country since the incident occurred.

Kang also said Pyongyang had requested the release of Jong-nam's body without success. In response to Kang's comments, Subramaniam said North Korea had to wait until the publication of the autopsy report, and the government was "not bothered" by such a complaint.

A reporter holds up a local newspaper during his report in front of the morgue at Kuala Lumpur General Hospital, where the body of Kim Jong-nam, the half brother of North Korea's leader, is held for autopsy in Malaysia, February 18, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

The assassination of Jong-nam not only created a growing rift between Pyongyang and Kula Lumpur, which had warm and full mutual ties, but also dragged Vietnam and Indonesia to the crime scene.

Jong-nam, who studied in Russia and Switzerland, was a computer enthusiast and fluent Japanese speaker. After completing his overseas studies, he monitored his country's information technology policy.

In 2001, however, he fell from grace after a spectacular blunder. Since 2003, he had been living in exile in Malaysia, Singapore and Macau till his death. Jong-nam was reportedly an occasional critic of his family’s regime, advocating reform.

His death could be considered as the most high-profile death during the reign of his younger brother, Kim Jong-un, since the execution of Jang Song-thaek, the brothers' once powerful uncle, in December 2013.


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