KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The two women suspected of fatally poisoning a scion of North Korea’s ruling family were trained to coat their hands with toxic chemicals then wipe them on his face, police in Malaysia said Wednesday, announcing they were seeking a North Korean diplomat in connection with the attack.
But the North Korean embassy ridiculed the police account of Kim Jong Nam’s death, demanding the immediate release of the two “innocent women” and saying there was no way for them to have poisoned him.
If the toxins were on their hands “then how is it possible that these female suspects could still be alive?” demanded a statement from North Korea’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur. Police say the women — one of them Indonesian, the other Vietnamese — washed their hands soon after poisoning Kim, the long-estranged half brother of the North Korean ruler.
Earlier Wednesday, Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar also told reporters that authorities are searching for two new North Korean suspects, 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.”
Police say the substance used remains unknown, but it was potent enough to kill Kim before he could even make it to the hospital.
Khalid said the women knew they were handling poisonous materials and “were warned to take precautions.” Surveillance footage showed both keeping their hands away from their bodies after the attack, he said, then going to restrooms to wash.
He said the women had practiced the attack at two Kuala Lumpur malls.
“We strongly believe it is a planned thing and that they have been trained,” he told reporters.
Khalid couldn’t confirm whether North Korea’s government was behind Kim’s death but added, “What is clear is that those involved are North Koreans.”
Police have already arrested four people in connection with the attack: a Malaysian, a North Korean and the two women. The Malaysian was to be freed Wednesday on bail, Khalid said.
At least one of the women has said she was tricked into attacking Kim Jong Nam, believing she was taking part in a comedy prank TV show. Khalid rejected that claim, saying, “This is not just like shooting a movie.”
But North Korea insisted the women were telling the truth.