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North Koreans must supply DNA to get body of leader’s half brother

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 17/02/2017 Anna Fifield

Malaysian authorities won’t release the body of assassinated North Korean princeling Kim Jong Nam without a DNA sample from a family member, police said Friday.

While this will most likely come from one of his children — Kim Jong Nam is thought to have six of them – it introduces another wrinkle in a sensational killing that makes a James Bond plot look realistic.

Kim Jong Nam, the estranged, older half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was killed on Monday in an apparent poisoning attack by two women in a busy airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur.

Three people — a Vietnamese woman, an Indonesian woman and the latter’s Malaysian boyfriend — have so far been arrested in relation to the attack, which is widely blamed on Kim Jong Un’s regime in Pyongyang.

A man believed to be Kim Jong Nam in 2001. © Shizuo Kambayashi/AP A man believed to be Kim Jong Nam in 2001. North Korean diplomats in Kuala Lumpur tried — unsuccessfully — to stop an autopsy from taking place and are now seeking the return of Kim Jong Nam’s body.

But so far, no family member or next of kin has come to identify or claim the body, Khalid Abu Bakar, the inspector-general of police, told The Washington Post. The body would not be released until family could supply a matching DNA sample, he said.

“We need a DNA sample of a family member to match the profile of the dead person,” the police chief told the Agence France Presse news agency. “North Korea has submitted a request to claim the body, but before we release the body we have to identify who the body belongs to,” he said.

North Korea’s ruling Kim family is the most secretive dynasty. The totalitarian state tightly controls information about the family, which has kept a grip on the country for three generations, from Kim Il Sung, the founding president, through Kim Jong Il, the father of both Kim Jong Nam and Kim Jong Un, to the current leader, who is only 33.

The Kim family is deified in the all-encompassing state media, which reports on the “respected leader’s” great feats, while Pyongyang actively tries to block any outside information that would reveal to North Koreans that they do not, in fact, live in a “people’s paradise.”

Because it is so reclusive, intelligence on North Korea is very thin and the North Korean regime is likely to balk at the prospect of Malaysia — and potentially other intelligence services — having DNA information that could be used for other purposes.

But Malaysia would release the body only after the official procedures were followed, deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told reporters Thursday. “After all the police and medical procedures are completed we may release the body to the next of kin through the embassy,” he said.

Zahid had confirmed that the body did belong to Kim Jong Nam, based on the passports that he was carrying. He was said to have four diplomatic passports bearing at least two names — Kim Jong Nam and his known alias, Kim Chol.

Despite the North Koreans’ objections, the autopsy was completed on Thursday night but the results have not yet been released. There have, however, been some local reports that there were no wounds or puncture marks found on Kim Jong Nam’s body, meaning that scientists must wait for toxicology results.

Laboratory technicians working on blood and tissue samples would “conduct the analysis as soon as possible,” Cornelia Charito Siricord of the science ministry’s chemistry department told Bernama, Malaysia’s state-run news agency.

Scientists have been speculating about what substance could have killed Kim Jong Nam so quickly and without being ingested.

After he was sprayed with the poison, he was taken to the medical clinic inside the airport terminal and put in an ambulance, but he died on his way to hospital.

CCTV footage suggested that the women, along with four men believed to be the masterminds behind the attack, cased the airport the day before the attack, laughing “playfully” and even spraying liquid on each other in a joking way, according to local media reports.

One of the women arrested, identified as 29-year-old Doan Thi Hoang of Vietnam — reportedly told people that she was tricked into taking part in the attack, which she said she thought was just a prank being played on the man.

The attack was surprisingly amateurish for North Korea, which has a history of using elite agents in such attacks. But the two women and the Malaysian man, thought to be the taxi driver who took them from the airport, were quickly apprehended. Doan, apparently abandoned by the others, was arrested when she returned to the very same airport terminal to take a flight back to Vietnam.

Local officials have said that it is still too early to conclude that foreign agents had killed Kim Jong Nam and that the investigation into the complicated case was ongoing.

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