Kim Jong Nam, 46, was targeted on Monday in the shopping concourse at the airport and had not gone through immigration yet for his flight to Macau, said a senior government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
He was taken to the airport clinic and then died on the way to the hospital, the official said.
Kim Jong Nam was estranged from his younger brother, the North Korean leader. He had been tipped by outsiders to succeed their dictator father, but reportedly fell out of favour when he was caught trying to enter Japan on a false passport in 2001, saying he wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland. He was believed to have been living recently in Macau, Singapore and Malaysia.
Multiple South Korean media reports, citing unidentified sources, said Kim Jong Nam was killed at the airport by two women. TV Chosun, citing “multiple government sources,” said the women were believed to be North Korean agents. It said they fled in a taxi and were being sought by Malaysian police.
A Malaysian police statement confirmed the death of a 46-year-old North Korean man whom it identified from his travel document as Kim Chol, born in Pyongyang on June 10, 1970. The statement said the man had sought initial assistance at a customer service counter at the Kuala Lumpur airport and died en route to a hospital Monday.
“Investigation is in progress and a post mortem examination request has been made to ascertain the cause of death,” the statement said.
The reported killing came as North Korea celebrated its latest missile launch, which foreign experts were analysing for evidence of advancement in the country’s missile capabilities.
For the next several days, North Korea will be marking the birthday of its late leader Kim Jong Il, the brothers’ father though they have different mothers. The major holiday this Thursday is called the Day of the Shining Star and will be feted with figure skating and synchronised swimming exhibitions, fireworks and mass rallies.
Since taking power in late 2011, Kim Jong Un has executed or purged a slew of high-level government officials in what the South Korean government has described as a “reign of terror.”
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