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Kim Jong-un's half-brother dies after 'attack' at airport in Malaysia

The estranged half-brother of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has died in Malaysia, police have confirmed, after he told authorities he had been attacked in the shopping concourse at Kuala Lumpur airport.

Kim Jong-nam, who was 45 years old, died on his way to hospital after seeking help at an information desk because he felt dizzy, Malalysian police said. He said he had been attacked by an unknown assailant, and police have ordered a postmortem.

Both South Korean and US government sources believe Kim was murdered by North Korean agents, Reuters news agency reported. Poison-pen devices have been found on would-be North Korean assassins in the past, and a US government official said a similar device could not be ruled out.

Kim had been planning to travel to Macau, where he is believed to have a home and family, when he fell ill at the low-cost terminal of Kuala Lumpur international airport (KLIA), police official Fadzil Ahmat told Reuters.

“The deceased ... felt like someone grabbed or held his face from behind,” Fadzil said. “We don’t know if there was a cloth or needles. The receptionist said someone grabbed his face, he felt dizzy.”

Kim was taken to an airport clinic, where medical staff ordered an ambulance, but he died on his way to hospital. A postmortem will be carried out and police have launched an investigation, although they do not yet have any suspects, Ahmat said.

Malaysia is one of the few countries to maintain cordial ties with North Korea, and nationals of both countries enjoy visa-free travel, potentially making any killers harder to track down. 

South Korea’s TV Chosun, a cable-TV network, reported that Kim had been poisoned by two women believed to be North Korean operatives, and the Yonhap news agency reported that the suspects in Kim’s death fled the scene in a taxi.