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North Korean suspects in Kim Jong Nam slaying had diplomatic passports

By Elizabeth Shim
North Korea suspects tied to the assassination of Kim Jong Nam were able to enter and leave Malaysia with relative ease because of their diplomatic status. Photo by Jeon Heon-Kyun/EPA
North Korea suspects tied to the assassination of Kim Jong Nam were able to enter and leave Malaysia with relative ease because of their diplomatic status. Photo by Jeon Heon-Kyun/EPA

Feb. 23 (UPI) -- North Korea suspects connected to the assassination of Kim Jong Nam all traveled on diplomatic passports issued by Pyongyang, according to Malaysia police.

South Korean news network YTN reported Thursday there are now eight North Korean suspects tied to the case.

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All were able to enter and leave Malaysia with relative ease because of their diplomatic status, and their passports point to North Korea's involvement in the fatal chemical attack on the older half-brother of Kim Jong Un, according to the report.

So far authorities in Kuala Lumpur have detained one North Korean national, Ri Jong Chol.

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Ri was in Malaysia on a foreign-worker visa, but he also carried with him a diplomatic passport from Pyongyang.

Malaysia immigration records indicate the other seven North Korean suspects carried diplomatic or other official passports in order to enter the country.

Those suspects include Ri Ji Hyon, 33; O Jong Gil, 55; Hong Song Hac, 34; Ri Jae Nam, 57.

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Two other suspects, Kim Uk Il and Ri Ji U, were carrying official passports and are believed to have been affiliated with the Korean People's Army or state-owned flag carrier Air Koryo.

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News of Kim Jong Nam's slaying has largely been censored in North Korea, where state media has said a North Korean diplomatic passport holder died unexpectedly of a stroke in Malaysia, and denied Pyongyang's involvement in what was clearly a deadly attack against Kim.

Kim Hyon-hui, a former North Korean agent who was arrested after bombing a South Korean airline in 1987, said the incident is being concealed because it would violate a rule of the regime that states all members of the ruling Kim family are of the sacred "Paektu" bloodline, Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reported Thursday.

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Kim also said there may have been conflict over money between the North Korean ruler and his half-brother after the execution of Kim Jong Un's uncle-in-law Jang Song Taek, according to the report.

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