Whodunit: Brother of North Korea dictator murdered in Malaysian airport

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Two unidentified women, believed to be North Korean agents, attacked Mr Kim with poisoned needles before fleeing in a taxi, South Korean cable channel TV Chosun reported yesterday, citing a government source.

The brother, Kim Jong-Nam, is the eldest son of the late "dear leader", Kim Jong-Il. Kim Jong-un is thought to have presided over several high-profile purges, including executions, since he became leader.

Jong-NamĀ“s half-brother Jong-Un took over as North Korean leader when their father died in December 2011. They are suspected to have been North Korean agents.

US authorities have not yet determined exactly how Kim Jong Nam was killed, according to the source, who did not provide firm evidence to support the government's conclusion.

But this assumption was thrown into doubt in 2001 when Kim Jong Nam was caught at Narita airport in Tokyo, trying to enter Japan with his wife and son on fake Dominican Republic passports.

The news of Kim Jong Nam's death broke two days after Pyongyang conducted its first ballistic missile test of 2017.

The exact cause of death had not been identified because a post-mortem examination was not yet complete, he said. He told immigration authorities at the time he had wanted to go to Tokyo Disneyland.

Regardless, it underscores the transience of power North Korea.

Could the dead man be Kim Jong-chol rather than Kim Jong-nam? Jang had been close to Kim Jong Nam and had reportedly backed him as successor.

A man watches a television showing news reports of Kim Jong-Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, in Seoul on February 14, 2017.

"There's a history of bloodshed within the family", Reuters' Julian Satterthwaite reports about North Korea's Kim dynasty. Recall, as an instructive example, the breathless and false reports that Kim Jong-un's uncle had been mauled to death by dogs.

Koh Yu-hwan, a professor at the Dongguk University in Seoul said that Jong-nam had previously been the subject of speculation that he could replace his younger half-brother. In any case, Kim Jong Un has been known to be ruthless about potential rivals, even within his own family. "Personally, I am against third-generation succession", he told Japan's Asahi TV in 2010.

South Korean media have long talked about a feud between the brothers and have speculated that the North Korean leader might want to get rid of his rival, who had however said he never sought power for himself.

"The older brother, Jong-Chul, had the warm heart of a girl", Fujimoto wrote.

Kim had been quoted in the news media saying that he disapproved of dynastic succession for North Korea, and there was speculation that he was in favor of Chinese-style reforms for the country.

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