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Malaysians held in NoKor return home

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KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – Nine Malaysians freed by Pyongyang arrived home early Friday, after Kuala Lumpur agreed to send back the body of the assassinated half-brother of North Korea’s leader, ending a bitter feud between the two countries.

Kim Jong-Nam was killed with the lethal nerve agent VX on February 13 at a Kuala Lumpur airport, triggering a diplomatic row between Malaysia and North Korea, which expelled each other’s ambassadors and barred their citizens from leaving.

But a deal announced by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and confirmed by North Korean state media on Thursday said the two countries had lifted their respective travel bans, and Kuala Lumpur would send the body to North Korea.

The Malaysians were three embassy staff and six family members, including a small baby and three other children, landed at Kuala Lumpur International Airport before sunrise where they were met on the tarmac by foreign minister Anifah Aman.

Three North Koreans wanted for questioning over the murder of the estranged half-brother of their country’s leader were believed on their way home along with the body of Kim Jong Nam on Friday after Malaysia agreed a swap deal with the reclusive state.

Television footage obtained by Reuters from Japanese media showed Hyon Kwang Song, the second secretary at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and Kim Uk Il, a North Korean state airline employee on the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on Thursday evening.

Though there was no official confirmation of their departure the men were identifiable from handouts released by the Malaysian police during their investigation.

Japanese broadcaster TBS also filmed what was believed to be the casket containing Kim Jong Nam’s remains being loaded onto the same flight, though this was not confirmed by authorities either. (With reports from Reuters)