M'sia tightens security at int'l entry points to net N. Korean suspects

Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has stepped up security checks at all border crossings to stop North Koreans linked to the murder of the estranged half-brother to North Korean leader Kim Jung-un from leaving the country, Malaysia's police chief told Reuters.

Malaysian police identified eight North Koreans wanted in connection with the assassination of Kim Jong-nam using VX nerve agent at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, but the only one they apprehended, a man named Ri Jong-chol, was released on Friday due to insufficient evidence and was set to be deported after a week in custody.

Inspector-general of police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar told Reuters on Friday that "at least two of them" were believed to be still in Malaysia.

He did not name them, though police have said that they want to question 44-year-old Hyong Kwang-song, a second secretary at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur; 37-year-old Kim Uk-Il, a staffer at North Korean airline Air Koryo; and an individual named Ri Ji-u.

Khalid said Hyong has yet to contact the police despite a request sent to the embassy, and that an arrest warrant had been made for the Air Koryo staffer who "is missing too".

Shahriman Lockman, a senior analyst at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia, said it is possible that they were all hiding in the North Korean embassy - making them virtually untouchable.

"This can go on for some time," Shahriman said.

Officers have stepped up checks at all border checkpoints, including at jetties, airports and land routes to stop any of the suspects skipping the country, Khalid told Reuters via text messages.

The other four suspects are believed to have left the country on the day of the murder, and made their way back to North Korea by air, travelling via Indonesia, Dubai and Russia.

Malaysian police have requested help from Interpol to apprehend them.--REUTERS