South Korea’s intelligence service told lawmakers Monday that four North Korean government spies were involved in the killing of the estranged half brother of North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un.
Lawmakers cited the National Intelligence Service as telling them in a private briefing that four of the North Koreans identified as suspects by Malaysian police investigating the Feb. 13 death of Kim Jong Nam are from the Ministry of State Security, the North’s spy organ.
The NIS was quoted as saying that two other suspects are affiliated with Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry, according to Lee Cheol Woo, one of the lawmakers who attended the briefing. Another lawmaker, Kim Byeong-ki, cited the NIS as saying Kim Jong Un directed a “state-organized terror” to kill his brother.
Lawmakers didn’t say how the NIS got the information and if it elaborated on what specific roles these North Korean suspects performed.
The NIS has a mixed record on developments in the secretive North. The agency said it cannot confirm its reported assessment on Kim Jong Nam’s death.
Malaysia hasn’t directly accused North Korea of having masterminded the Kim Jong Nam killing but is pursuing several North Korean suspects, including a diplomat at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
Kim Jong Nam died Feb. 13 at Kuala Lumpur’s airport in what Malaysian police say was a well-planned hit by a Vietnamese woman and an Indonesian woman who separately wiped a liquid onto Kim’s face. Police last week identified the substance as the banned chemical weapon VX nerve agent, and Malaysia’s health minister said Sunday the dose was so high it caused “very serious paralysis” and killed him within 20 minutes.
Malaysian officials have said four North Korean men provided the two women with the VX agent, then fled Malaysia the same day.
It was unclear if those four were the four North Korean spies cited by South Korea’s intelligence agency.
North Korea has repeatedly criticized Malaysia’s investigation and has not acknowledged the victim’s identity.