Malaysian police say they are now seeking a North Korean diplomat in connection with the fatal attack on Kim Jong-nam.
They also said the women suspected of fatally poisoning the scion of North Korea’s ruling family were trained to coat their hands with toxic chemicals then wipe them on his face.
Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said authorities were searching for two new North Korean suspects, including the second secretary of North Korea’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur and an employee of North Korea’s state-owned airline Air Koryo.
“We hope that the Korean embassy will cooperate with us, allow us to interview them and interview them quickly,” he said. “If not, we will compel them to come to us.”
Mr Khalid said the women knew they were handling poisonous materials during the attack, which occurred in a departure area of Kuala Lumpur’s budget airport, and had practiced the attack multiple times.
“We strongly believe it is a planned thing and that they have been trained to do that. This is not just like shooting a movie,” he said.
The Inspector-General could not confirm whether North Korea’s government was behind the February 13 death of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half brother of North Korea’s ruler, but added, “What is clear is that those involved are North Koreans.”
Police have already arrested four people in connection with the attack, including the two women — one Indonesian and the other Vietnamese.
Police were already searching for five additional North Koreans in connection with the attack, though four are believed to have fled Kuala Lumpur shortly after the attack and are now believed to be back in Pyongyang.
Authorities believe those four provided the toxin. “That’s why we asked the North Korean embassy to trace them and hand them over to us.”
Mr Khalid said, though, that Malaysian authorities had received no help so far from North Korea.
Type of poison remains a mystery
Determining the cause of Kim Jong-nam’s death has proven difficult.
Malaysian authorities said that Kim did not suffer a heart attack and had no puncture wounds, such as those a needle would have left, but they were still awaiting lab reports.
The case has perplexed leading forensic toxicologists who study murder by poison.
They say the airport attack was bizarre, and question how the two women could walk away unscathed after deploying an agent potent enough to kill Kim Jong-nam before he could even make it to the hospital.
— ARnews 1936 (@ARnews1936) February 20, 2017
Inspector-General Khalid Abu Bakar noted the two women “were warned to take precautions,” and said security camera footage showed them quickly walking to restrooms after the attack to wash their hands.
Mr Kim had spent most of the past 15 years living in China and South East Asia.
He is believed to have had at least three children with two women. No family members have come forward to claim the body.
— Sumisha Naidu (@SumishaCNA) February 20, 2017
The attack spiralled into diplomatic fury when Malaysia refused to hand over Mr Kim’s corpse to North Korean diplomats after his death, and proceeded with an autopsy over the ambassador’s objections.
The two nations have made a series of increasingly angry statements since then, with Malaysia insisting it is simply following its legal protocols and North Korea accusing Malaysia of working in collusion with its enemy South Korea.
— Imran Said (@MalayBoy97) February 20, 2017
Seoul’s spy agency believes North Korea was behind the killing, but has produced no evidence.
Isolated North Korea has a long history of ordering killings of people it views as threats to its regime.
Kim Jong-nam was not known to be seeking political power, but his position as eldest son of the family that has ruled North Korea since it was founded could have made him appear to be a danger