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Malaysians' emotional return from Pyongyang in Kim body swap

01 April 2017

Japan's Kyodo news agency reported that Hyon Kwang Song, who is listed as second secretary at North Korea's embassy in Kuala Lumpur and Kim Uk-il, a staff member of North Korea's state airline Air Koryo, arrived in Beijing on Friday on a flight from Kuala Lumpur.

North Korea had been demanding the handover of Kim's body and that three remaining suspects inside its embassy be returned to Pyongyang in exchange for an end to the travel ban on Malaysians, diplomatic sources have said.

Kim Jong Nam was the elder half-brother of North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, and had been living in exile with his family in the Chinese territory of Macau for several years.

The Counsellor of the Malaysian Embassy in North Korea Mohd Nor Azrin Md Zain said that after the ban on leaving the country was implemented, the nine Malaysians had to rely on aid, including food, provided by other embassies in Pyongyang and had to continue with their usual tasks.

"Legally, Kim Jong-un is next of kin", he said.

North Korea does not even acknowledge the victim is Kim Jong Nam, referring to him instead as Kim Chol, the name on the passport he was carrying when he died.

"They have assisted us and they have been allowed to leave", police chief Khalid Abu Bakar told a news conference in the Malaysian capital, saying there were no grounds to hold the men.

He thanked Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak for placing his trust in the Foreign Ministry to lead negotiations with North Korea.

The death caused a diplomatic rift between the countries, resulting in Malaysia and North Korea expelling each other's ambassadors and preventing each other's citizens from leaving the country. Malaysia said it held on to the body in order to formally identify the corpse, which it now says it has done, using DNA from Kim's son.

North Korea had insisted the body be returned to North Korea, despite North Korean officials claiming the dead man was not Mr Kim.

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Police also carried out 10 raids overnight in Venice, one in the neighbouring town of Mestre and one in nearby Treviso. They said Italy's specialist Digos crime squad had been investigating the three adults on suspicion of radicalisation.

All the Malaysian citizens departed from Pyongyang at 7.45 pm yesterday and arrived safely at the KL International Airport (KLIA) at 5.03 am today.

Malaysian police did not respond to requests for comment.

Malaysian police say Kim was killed by two women who smeared the super toxic nerve agent VX on his face.

Malaysian prosecutors have charged an Indonesian and a Vietnamese national, both women, in killing Kim Jong Nam.

Diplomatic ties between Malaysia and North Korea have deteriorated sharply after the former refused to grant custody of Jong-nam's remains to North Korea.

Malaysian authorities released Kim's body on Thursday.

Kim, who was in his mid-40s and had lived overseas for years, was estranged from his younger brother, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Arrest warrants and Interpol red notices have been issued for four North Korean suspects, who Malaysian police believe are back in Pyongyang.

"During that time we were not particularly harassed by DPRK authorities", he added.

Malaysia has also allowed North Koreans to leave and released Mr Kim's body.