The two women who allegedly smeared poison on Mr Kim Jong Nam's face knew they were part of a premeditated attack, Malaysian police have said, disputing reports that the duo were duped into a supposed prank on the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar told a press conference yesterday that they rehearsed the attack in two downtown malls, Pavillion and Suria KLCC, before executing it at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) on Feb 13.
"We strongly believe it is a planned thing, and they have been trained to do that. It is not something like just shooting a movie or a play thing," he said of the alleged assassination of Mr Kim, who died on the way to hospital that day.
He said the two women were given the liquid by four North Korean men, suspects who have since fled to Pyongyang.
The Indonesian woman, Siti Aisyah, 25, is said to have attacked first, followed by the Vietnamese woman Doan Thi Huong, 29, who allegedly smeared a liquid on Mr Kim's face.
"(They) wiped the face of the deceased and after that they went away and were instructed to clean their hands. They knew it was toxic," he said.
Asked if the four men were "masterminds" of the attack, Tan Sri Khalid said: "They are heavily involved. That is why I requested the North Korean Embassy's assistance to trace them and hand them over to us."
The police chief added that footage of the incident showed one of the women, likely Doan, moving away after the attack, with her hands held up away from her body, "towards the washroom".
"So she knew very well that it was toxic and she had to wash her hands," he said.
In leaked closed-circuit television footage of the incident, two women are seen sneaking up on Mr Kim and reaching up to his face, one resembling Siti Aisyah from the front and another taller woman resembling Doan from the back.
It was also reported that the two women and four men were spotted at KLIA2 the day before the attack.
But Doan's father has said his daughter "could never kill a person".
"My daughter is meek, and I can't believe she would ever kill anybody. She must have been duped by somebody," Mr Doan Van Thanh, 64, told Kyodo News in an interview near his house in Nghia Hung, Vietnam.
According to him, his daughter had been working in Hanoi, and he saw her during Chinese New Year at the end of last month.
A neighbour also described the suspect as "very nice, the kind of person who could not even kill a chicken".
The two women, who were picked up last week, had their remand extended yesterday for another week.
Police have also remanded a North Korean man, Ri Jong Chol, 46, who has been in Malaysia on a work visa since 2013. A fourth suspect, Siti Aisyah's Malaysian boyfriend Muhammad Farid Jalaluddin, 26, has been released on police bond.
Siti Aisyah's mother, who spoke to The Straits Times last week in Serang, in Indonesia's Banten province, said she believes her daughter is innocent and hopes that the Indonesian government will help the youngest of her three children.
"She is not the type of person who could do what she has been accused of," said Madam Benah, 50.
The saga so far
- A North Korean man carrying a passport that identifies him as Kim Chol, 46, is attacked at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 at around 9am.
- CCTV footage leaked later showed that he walked to a clinic in KLIA2 on his own accord, but died en route to hospital.
- Reports first emerge in South Korea that Mr Kim Jong Nam has been poisoned by two female assassins in Malaysia.
- Malaysian police arrest Vietnamese woman Doan Thi Huong, 28, at KLIA2 as she plans to fly out.
- Police detain a Malaysian believed to be the boyfriend of the second woman suspect.
- Based on the man's information, police arrest Indonesian woman Siti Aisyah, 25.
- North Korean Ambassador Kang Chol says Malaysia is "colluding with hostile forces" after police turn down Pyongyang's demands not to conduct an autopsy and to hand over the body.
- Police arrest a North Korean national, Ri Jong Chol, who has a work visa from a Malaysian healthcare medication company.
- Police release images of four North Korean men caught on airport CCTV who are suspects.
- Foreign Minister Anifah Aman says Mr Kang's allegations "are culled from delusions, lies and half-truths".
- Malaysia recalls its ambassador to North Korea and summons Mr Kang to its Foreign Ministry to explain his harsh words.
- Mr Kang, in a second outburst, wants his country to be allowed to join probe, citing "grave human rights abuses".
- Prime Minister Najib Razak says he has "absolute confidence" in Malaysia's police and doctors, who "are very, very professional".
- CCTV footage of the attack leaks online.
- Health officials say preliminary observation from post-mortem shows that the victim had no puncture wounds and did not die of a heart attack.
- Mr Kang says the victim "fainted from a heart attack", and calls it a "natural death".
- Police want to interview a second secretary at the North Korean Embassy, and an employee of national airline Air Koryo.
- Police say the two women knew they were poisoning the victim.
- Mr Kang says if poison was used, why did the two women not die as they used their hands to smear the chemical on the victim's face.
- Police say there was an attempt to break into the morgue where the body of the victim is held.
This article was first published on Feb 23, 2017.
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