Seoul, South Korea – The death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half brother remains a mystery, with Malaysian officials saying Tuesday that initial autopsy results show no evidence of a heart attack or puncture wounds.
In addition, no member of Kim Jong Nam’s family has come forward to verify his identity through DNA testing or claim his body.
The developments add to the questions surrounding the death of Kim Jong Nam, who was ambushed at the Kuala Lumpur airport last week as he went to check in for a flight and apparently had poison applied to his face, authorities said. Initial reports suggested that he had been injected with a poison needle.
Noor Hisham Abdullah, Malaysia’s director general of health, said pathologists were still waiting for the results of lab tests to confirm the identity of the body and the cause of death.
“We have to confirm with the lab report before we can make any conclusive remark,” he told reporters, declining to say when the lab results would be available.
Noor Hisham also said that a second autopsy had not been conducted on Kim Jong Nam, contrary to widespread reports in the Malaysian media.
Malaysia’s police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said early Wednesday that two female suspects in the killing were trained to wipe toxin on Kim Jong Nam’s face, then wash their hands.
The police chief said a North Korean Embassy official is among eight North Korean suspects in the case. He said four of them are believed to have returned to North Korea. One suspect is in custody and three are believed to be at large in Malaysia, including the second secretary of the North Korean Embassy.
Authorities were also still waiting for a family member to come forward to provide DNA identification and claim the body. “At the moment, we do not have anyone claiming to be the next of kin; we are still waiting for them,” Noor Hisham said.
Kim Han Sol, the 20-something son of Kim Jong Nam, was thought to have arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Monday night.
Local news media reported that he was on a flight from Macau, where the family is based, to the Malaysian capital, and reporters staked out the airport for hours. But there was no sign of him. It is possible that he was whisked out via a private exit to avoid the media scrum.
North Korea and Malaysia have become embroiled in an increasingly acrimonious diplomatic row over the case.
North Korea strongly objected to Malaysia’s decision to conduct a postmortem on Kim Jong Nam. It then accused Malaysian authorities of “mangling” the body.
Kang Chol, North Korea’s ambassador to Kuala Lumpur, said Monday that Malaysia was colluding with South Korea to try to make North Korea look bad and committing “human rights abuses” in the way the autopsy was conducted.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak responded that his government’s probe would be “objective” and that Malaysian police and doctors were “very professional.”
North Korea has not confirmed the identity of the deceased as a member of the ruling family. The ambassador called him “Kim Chol,” the name listed in one of the four passports that Kim Jong Nam was carrying when the attack occurred.
But Malaysian authorities have said that they are sure the victim is the North Korean leader’s older half brother.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Anna Fifield