Kim Jong Nam, the older half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has been assassinated at Kuala Lumpur airport, Korean-language media reported late on Tuesday.
He was reportedly killed by two women using poisoned needles who fled the scene by taxi, the reports said.
The older Mr Kim was once considered to be an heir to the late Kim Jong Il, North Korea’s former leader, but his fortunes turned after he was arrested at Tokyo airport for using a fake passport in May 2001. He was apparently en route to Disneyland in the US.
Since rising to power following the death of his father in 2011, Kim Jong Un has moved ruthlessly to cement his standing as North Korea’s supreme leader. In 2013, his uncle, Jang Sung-taek, was purged from the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea. North Korean state media later reported he was executed.
“Kim Jong Un is good at populist behaviour and he may enjoy broader support than you think,” said Chun Yungwoo, a former top-ranking South Korean negotiator with Pyongyang.
“His facing up to the US has earned him great authority and prestige. He may be more popular than his father.”
A source close to the Malaysian prime minister’s office said that police were still waiting for an autopsy. South Koreans officials have yet to comment.
Mr Kim, who was 45, was a well-known face at the gambling tables of Macau, where he lived as an exile for many years.
He spoke good English and chatted affably with reporters. Like his brothers, Mr Kim also grew up in a cloistered world but with privileged access to to foreign films and luxury goods. His son, Kim Han-sol, attended a university in Paris for about a year from September 2013.
North Korea has a long history of extraterritorial murders, and defectors from the reclusive state are often warned about roving agents.
In 1983, North Korean agents killed 21 people in a failed bombing attempt on then South Korean leader Chun Doo-hwan while he was on a state visit to Myanmar.
Four years later, 115 were killed after two North Korean agents planted a bomb on Korean Air Flight 858 between Baghdad and Seoul. They were apprehended while trying to escape from Bahrain airport, with both immediately attempting suicide by ingesting cyanide.
One died immediately, while the other was extradited to Seoul, where she was sentenced to death but later pardoned.
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