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A TV screen showing a picture of Kim Jong Nam, who was assassinated last Monday Ahn Young-joon AP/Press Association Images
on the run

Police say four North Korean suspects fled Malaysia on the day of high-profile assassination

South Korean authorities have said that Kim Jong Un gave the order to assassinate his half-brother.

MALAYSIAN POLICE SAID today that they believe five North Koreans were involved in the murder of the half-brother of leader Kim Jong-Un, with four having fled the country on the day of the killing.

South Korea said the announcement proved Pyongyang was behind the murder of Kim Jong-Nam, who died after being squirted in the face with an unidentified liquid at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Monday.

The case has also sparked a diplomatic row between Pyongyang and Kuala Lumpur, after Malaysia rejected demands quickly to hand the body over to the North.

Four North Korean men were being sought over the killing, Deputy Inspector-General of Police Noor Rashid Ibrahim told a press conference, in addition to their 46-year old compatriot Ri Jong Chol who was arrested in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Suspects Ri Ji Hyon, O Jong Gil, Ri Jae Nam and Hong Song Sac, aged between 33 and 57, entered Malaysia in February or late January, the police chief said.

Three more North Koreans were wanted for questioning, he said.

Malaysia North Korea A picture of an unidentified man believed to be a suspect in the case shown at a police press conference Vincent Thian AP / Press Association Images Vincent Thian AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Officers have already arrested one North Korean, an Indonesian woman and her Malaysian boyfriend, as well as a Vietnamese woman.

“Considering that five suspects are North Korean nationals, we view that the North Korean government is behind the incident,” Seoul’s unification ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-Hee said immediately after today’s announcement.

The deputy police chief refused to comment on any political motive for the killing, saying only that investigations were ongoing.

Pyongyang has demanded Jong-Nam’s body be returned but Malaysia has said it must remain in the country until it is identified through a DNA sample from a family member.

“We are trying very hard to get the next of kin to come and assist us in the investigation,” Noor Rashid said, but added no such family member had yet come forward.

Police were still waiting for the results of an autopsy conducted on Wednesday, he said.

Malaysia North Korea Police Chief Noor Rashid speaking at the press conference Vincent Thian AP / Press Association Images Vincent Thian AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

The drama erupted on Monday as Jong-Nam prepared to board a plane to Macau, where he has been living in recent years. Malaysian police say the 45-year-old was jumped by two women who squirted liquid in his face.

He suffered a seizure and died before arriving at hospital.

He was once thought to be the natural successor to his father, the then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il.

But after Jong-Il’s death in 2011 the succession went instead to his younger half-brother Kim Jong-Un.

Reports of purges and executions have emerged from the current regime as Jong-Un tries to strengthen his grip on power in the face of international pressure over his nuclear and missile programmes.

South Korea has cited a “standing order” from Jong-Un to kill his sibling, and a failed assassination bid in 2012 after Jong-Nam criticised the regime.

© – AFP 2017

Read: North Korean antics aside, poison has been a hugely popular killing agent through the ages

Read: North Korea says it ‘categorically rejects’ autopsy results before they’re even released

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