15/02/2017 21:54 SAST | Updated 16/02/2017 06:22 SAST

Women Held Over Apparent Killing Of Kim Jong Nam As North Korea Asks For Body

North Korea tried to prevent autopsy on leader's half-brother.

Kim Jong-nam
KYODO Kyodo / Reuters
Kim Jong-nam

Malaysian police have detained two women in connection with the killing of the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jon Un.

The first woman was detained on Wednesday; she was holding Vietnam travel papers and police said then they were looking for a "few" other foreign suspects in connection with the apparent assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's estranged half-brother.

The second woman was detained on Thursday and was carrying an Indonesian passport. She was positively identified from the CCTV footage at the Kuala Lumpur airport, the police said in a statement, adding that the arrest was made at 0200 local time on Thursday.

Lawmakers in South Korea earlier cited their spy agency as saying it suspected two female North Korean agents had murdered Kim Jong Nam, and US government sources also said they believed North Korean assassins were responsible.

North Korean officials spent hours on Wednesday trying to talk Malaysia out of conducting an autopsy on Kim Jong Nam, three Malaysian government sources familiar with the stand-off told Reuters.

Malaysian authorities refused the request, the sources added, although no decision has been taken on whether the body will eventually be handed over to North Korea.

The portly and gregarious Kim Jong Nam, eldest son of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, was assaulted on Monday morning in the departure hall of Kuala Lumpur International Airport and died on the way to hospital, Malaysian police said.

The woman detained at Kuala Lumpur airport was identified from CCTV footage at the airport and was alone when she was apprehended, police said in a statement. Media had earlier published a grainy CCTV-captured image of a young woman wearing a white shirt with the letters "LOL" on the front.

Documents she carried were in the name of Doan Thi Huong, showed a birth date of May 1998 and birthplace of Nam Dinh, Vietnam, police said.

"Police are looking for a few others, all foreigners," Deputy Inspector-General Noor Rashid Ibrahim told Reuters, declining to give their nationalities or gender.

Nowhere to hide
South Korean intelligence believes Kim Jong Nam was poisoned, the lawmakers in South Korea's capital, Seoul, said.

The spy agency told them that the young and unpredictable North Korean leader had issued a "standing order" for his half-brother's assassination, and that there had been a failed attempt in 2012.

"The cause of death is strongly suspected to be a poisoning attack," said South Korean lawmaker Kim Byung-kee, who was briefed by the spy agency.

Kim Jong Nam had long suspected he could be the target of an assassination attempt; five years ago, he pleaded with his younger sibling to spare his life, according to two lawmakers in South Korea.

"We have nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. We are well aware that the only way to escape is suicide," Kim Jong Nam said in a letter to Kim Jong Un, one of the lawmakers said.

Kim had been at the airport's budget terminal to catch a flight to Macau on Monday when someone grabbed or held his face from behind, after which he felt dizzy and sought help at an information desk, Malaysian police official Fadzil Amherst said.

Malaysian media reports said two female agents splashed Kim's face with a chemical. Reuters could not independently verify that detail.

According to South Korea's spy agency, Kim Jong Nam had been living, under Beijing's protection, with his second wife in the Chinese territory of Macau, lawmakers said. One of them said Kim Jong Nam also had a wife and son in Beijing.

Kim had spoken out publicly against his family's dynastic control of the isolated state.