Half-brother of N. Korean leader reportedly killed in Malaysia

Half-brother of N. Korean leader reportedly killed in Malaysia
The estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has died in Malaysia, according to reports, citing police. The official cause of his death remains unknown, but there are claims he was poisoned by North Korean operatives.

Malaysian police confirmed that a North Korean died at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport and said it was Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of Kim Jong-un according to the Bernama news agency.

The information came from the Senior Assistant Commissioner of the Malaysian Police Criminal Investigation Department, Fadzil Ahmat.

Earlier, Reuters reported that an unidentified man had died en route to the hospital from Kuala Lumpur Airport. It was later confirmed by the news agency, citing Ahmat, that the man was Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jong-un's older half brother. However, police said he was in possession of a passport under the name Kim Chol.

However, Malaysian Police Special Branch director, Seri Mohamad Fuzi Harun, told local media that police are still trying to verify the dead man’s identity. “We are still investigating the identity of the deceased and whether he is indeed the half-brother of Kim Jong-un,” he said, as cited by the Malaysian Star daily.

Meanwhile, Ahmat said the cause of death has not yet been determined as a post-mortem is still to be performed.

"So far there are no suspects, but we have started investigations and are looking at a few possibilities to get leads," Ahmat told Reuters.

He said that Kim had been planning to travel to Macau on Monday, but fell ill at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).

"The deceased...felt like someone grabbed or held his face from behind," Ahmat said. "He felt dizzy, so he asked for help at the...counter of KLIA."

A receptionist at the airport also stated that someone had grabbed Kim's face, according to Fadzil.

Kim was taken to an airport clinic, and transported to an ambulance. He died en route to Putrajaya Hospital. 

However, South Korea's TV Chosun reported that Kim had been poisoned with a needle by two women believed to be North Korean operatives. They fled in a taxi and are currently at large, according to the outlet, which cited multiple South Korean government sources.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry said it could not confirm the reports, and the country's intelligence agency could not be reached for comment by Reuters.

Meanwhile, AP cited a senior Malaysian official who said Kim Jong-nam had been "slain" at the airport.

Kim Jong-nam was known to spend a significant amount of time outside of North Korea, and had spoken publicly against his family's control of his home country.

He had previously been caught using forged travel documents, and was discovered to be using a Dominican Republic passport at a Japan airport in 2001, saying he had wanted to visit Disneyland Tokyo.

Kim Jong-nam said multiple times that he had no interest in leading his country.

"Personally I am against third-generation succession," he told Japan's Asahi TV in 2010.

"I hope my younger brother will do his best for the sake of North Koreans' prosperous lives," he continued.

Despite Kim Jong-nam's statement, his brother Kim Jong-un did succeed his father Kim Jong-il following his death in late 2011.

Kim Jong-nam was believed to be close to his uncle, Jang Sung-taek, who was North Korea's second most powerful man before being executed on Kim Jong-un's orders in 2013.