KUALA LUMPUR: A frame-by-frame analysis of the video footage captured by klia2’s closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in the minutes before and after the attack on Kim Jong-nam on the morning of Feb 13 have unearthed startling new revelations.
The seven wanted North Koreans — masterminds behind the assassination of the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un — had technically “surrounded” their target to ensure that the mission to liquidate him was followed through.
This damning analysis of CCTV footage, sourced from the public domain, has also revealed the possible involvement of another North Korean — possibly the ninth suspect.
The New Straits Times’ Special Probes Team learnt that this man is believed to be one Chang Nam-un, who is in his mid-30s. He is believed to have played a significant role in the murder plot.
He entered the frame as soon as Jong-nam began making his way to the self check-in counter, where the latter was eventually attacked by two women, who have since been charged with his murder.
An expert suggested that Nam-un was among the suspects tasked with making sure that this do-or-die mission was a success.
After the attack, as one of the assailants was making her getaway, she passed him, but not before raising her right hand. The expert believes that this was to indicate that “the job was done”.
Another clip later showed him turning to walk in the opposite direction almost immediately, and his path soon crossed that of the other alleged assassin.
From the angles of their faces and the pause in his steps, the expert said it was plausible that signals were also exchanged.
The team was later alerted to the fact that Japanese intelligence in Bangkok had identified him as the fifth suspect who had fled Malaysia a few hours after the attack that day. This piece of information is believed to have been channelled to Kuala Lumpur.
The Special Probes Team made another chilling discovery, which it shared with an expert, who also saw the damning links, to the whole plot.
There was a man who was standing within earshot of Jong-nam as he stood at the information counter seeking help, telling the airport’s personnel that his face stung after someone rubbed it with a form of liquid. The deadly substance has since been identified as the deadly nerve agent, VX.
From that point, this man, who had a trolley bag with him, was always a few steps behind Jong-nam as the latter made his way to the clinic. He would have seen the effects of the deadly chemical taking hold, as Jong-nam, who earlier was walking steadily, was already beginning to drag his feet.
As he walked past the clinic, he turned to look at an increasingly frantic Jong-nam.
He stationed himself close to the exit with his back to the clinic, and as the medical officer was preparing to wheel Jong-nam on a stretcher out to the waiting ambulance, the man turned to Jong-nam’s way several times.
The North Korean suspects identified with their respective roles seemed to eliminate the presence of James @ Ri Ji-u, 30.
If the man who tailed Jong-nam wasn’t James, investigators could be looking at the involvement of yet another suspect.
Police on Feb 19, said they had identified four North Korean suspects in klia2 that day who fled soon after the attack, as well as three others, including James.
The four were identified Ri Ji -hyon, Hong Song-hac, Ri Jae-nam and O Jong-gil.
It has also emerged that Jong-gil fled the country with the man who could be the ninth suspect via klia2. Their escape route to Pyongyang took them through Phnom Penh, Bangkok and Moscow. It is learnt that the five reached North Korea on Feb 17.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, when contacted, said the police were looking into the possibility of more suspects.
THE TASKING ORDER FOR THOSE BEHIND JONG-NAM’S MURDER
The two foreign female suspects
The two female suspects, who have since been charged with his murder, have maintained that they thought it was a prank. Both were captured on CCTV sneaking up on Jong-nam and swiping his face with a deadly concoction. Experts believe that one had in her bare hands, a non-deadly precursor chemical, while the other, sulphur. Both had allegedly taken part in rehearsals at two shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur, including at the fountain area of the Kuala Lumpur City Centre. As one of the suspects took her escape route from behind the information counter, she made eye contact with another North Korean man — believed to be Nam-un, who is possibly the ninth suspect, although police have not yet identified him as one.
The other woman was seen in the footage raising her right hand soon after the attack, as she was about to pass the ninth suspect. This female suspect was earlier seen hiding behind a pillar, watching Jong-nam as he was checking his flight details on the electronic board. At this point, she was seen with Jae-nam.
Hong Song-hac, 34
Police said Song-hac left the country with two other suspects, just a few hours after the attack, via Kuala Lumpur International Airport. A close look at the CCTV footage suggests that Song-hac was with one of the suspects behind a pillar. He emerged from behind it, as soon as Jong-nam walked past. Wearing a long-sleeved T-shirt, Song-hac was seen holding a plastic bag. Experts suggest that he could be carrying a key component to facilitate the attack. A picture of him at KLIA Immigration control as he was leaving the country with his two accomplices, showed him wearing a maroon T-shirt with nothing on his back. Another CCTV clip showed him entering the toilet wearing a grey T-shirt. He had a black backpack on him which he may have dumped. The only item that was consistently visible throughout was the shoes he had on. Song-hac speaks fluent Bahasa Indonesia. He is said to have recruited one of the two suspects.
Ri Jae-nam, 57, and Ri Ji-hyon, 33
Not much is known about these two North Korean suspects who fled the country with Song-hac, especially Ji-hyon. It is, however, believed that the duo were responsible for recruiting the other alleged assailant. It is believed that Jae-nam is an agent with North Korea’s Ministry of State Security. The video showed him standing with one of the female suspects, watching Jong-nam as he entered the departure hall. He moved away, and at one point, was just metres away from the unsuspecting target. Immediately after that, he was on the phone, presumably with the assailant, who also happened to be taking a call. There is an Interpol Red Notice for the arrest of the three, as well as for one O Jong-gil. Not much is known about him, except that he is also with Pyongyang’s secret police. He is said to have worked with Song-hac in recruiting one of the female suspects. It is understood that he left the country with the man believed to be the ninth suspect.
Hyon Kwang-song, 44, and Kim Uk-ill, 37
Kwang-song is the second-secretary at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur. A still image of them together showed the diplomat and Uk-ill, a staff of Air Koryo, allegedly sending off the four suspects, who escaped back to Pyongyang. They were not visible on klia2 CCTV footage when the murder plot unfolded and are believed to be still in the country.
James @ Ri Ji-u, 30
He was believed to be with Song-hac at some point during the recruitment of one of the women. James had been seen with one of the suspects at a hotel in Sepang in the days before the attack. It is not clear if it was James who had closely followed Jong-nam after he was attacked and stayed close even as paramedics at the klia2 clinic were rushing him to the waiting ambulance. The NST learnt that one of the suspects had told police that she did not see James at klia2 that day. If it wasn’t him who tailed Jong-nam till the end, there could be another unidentified suspect.