Kim Jong Nam assassination suspects 'thought they were filming a TV prank'
Two women suspected of poisoning the brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un at a Malaysian airport claim they believed they were filming a prank for a television show.
Kim Jong Nam, the 46-year-old playboy elder half-brother of North Korea's leader, was attacked in the busy departure hall of Kuala Lumpur's low-cost terminal on Monday, and died a short time later.
It was believed his face was covered with a cloth containing a poison.
Indonesian citizen Siti Aisyah, 25, and Vietnamese citizen Doan Thi Huong, 29, were later arrested.
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Siti told authorities she had been paid to take part in a comedy show stunt where she and another woman would approach men and convince them to allow the women to spray a liquid in their faces, Indonesian police chief Tito Karnavian told media, according to The Guardian.
"Such an action was done three or four times and they were given a few dollars for it, and with the last target, Kim Jong Nam, allegedly there were dangerous materials in the sprayer," Karnavian said, citing Malaysian authorities.
The China Press also reported that the women repeatedly rehearsed a "prank" to use a handkerchief to cover a person's face.
It said a mysterious man also travelled with the women several times to foreign countries, including Vietnam and South Korea, to gain their trust.
DEATH BY HANDKERCHIEF
In the airport incident, one woman stood in front of Kim to distract him while another came from behind and dabbed a handkerchief believed to contain poison in his face.
Images of the women were captured on CCTV cameras.
Kim became unwell and died in an ambulance on the way to a hospital.
Indonesia's vice-president Jusuf Kalla, told reporters on Friday he was confident Siti was not a North Korean agent, saying if she was she would have disappeared by now.
Police arrested Siti in a Kuala Lumpur hotel early Thursday after being led there by her 26-year-old Malaysian boyfriend.
"Why would she go and stay in a hotel in the same city, so close to the airport," Jusuf was reported as saying by Detik.com.
Malaysian police were hunting four men believed to be North Korean spies who they believe orchestrated the assassination.
They believed the men were still in Malaysia and authorities have increased security at border exit points.
South Korea has pointed the finger of blame at North Korea, citing a "standing order" from Kim Jong Un to kill him.
Siti's mother in Indonesia told the Sydney Morning Herald her daughter is a "simple country girl" who had been working in a clothing shop in Batam, an Indonesian island near Singapore.
Indonesian officials say immigration records show her last departure from Indonesia was on February 2 when she travelled from Batam to Johor, a state in southern Malaysia.
MALAYSIA VS NORTH KOREA
In the latest twist to the murder, Malaysia said Kim's body would not be released until his family has provided DNA samples, despite a request from Pyongyang that it be handed over immediately to North Korean officials.
Malaysia also ignored a North Korean objection to an autopsy being carried out.
Results of forensic tests on samples taken from the body have not been made public.
Celebrations in Pyongyang to mark the birthday of Kim Jong Il, the late father of both men, have gone ahead without reference to the death.
Yoji Gomi, a Tokyo-based journalist who wrote a book about Kim Jong Nam, told Associated Press that Kim opposed his family's rule of the pariah state and wanted economic reforms.
Gomi said Kim, who lived in Macau with a second wife and a son, appeared nervous when he interviewed him in 2011.
"He must have been aware of the danger, but I believe he still wanted to convey his views to Pyongyang via the media," Gomi said.
"He was sweating all over his body and seemed uncomfortable when he responded to my questions … he was probably worried about the impact of his comments and expressions," he said.
"The thought now gives me a pain in my heart."
HISTORY OF KIDNAPPINGS, ASSASSINATIONS
North Korean spies have a long history of assassinations and kidnappings in foreign countries.
One 14-year-old Japanese girl was kidnapped to teach Japanese to North Korean spies, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In October 2012, South Korean prosecutors said a North Korean man detained as a spy admitted involvement in a plot to stage a hit and run accident targeting Kim Jong Nam in China in 2010.
North Korea's main spy agency, the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), has had agents infiltrate Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia for decades, according to Malaysian intelligence officials quoted by The Star Asia News Network.
Agents disguised themselves as workers such as engineers, or ran restaurants, it said.
Malaysia is one of a dwindling number of countries that have close relations with North Korea, which is under global sanctions over its nuclear program and missile launches.
- Stuff and Sydney Morning Herald