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Kim Jong-Nam Malaysia releases body to North Korea

Jong-Nam was poisoned with the lethal nerve agent VX in a brazen Cold War-style assassination on February 13

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Kim Jong-Nam was assassinated with the lethal nerve agent VX at a Malaysian airport on February 13, 2017 play

Kim Jong-Nam was assassinated with the lethal nerve agent VX at a Malaysian airport on February 13, 2017

(AFP/File)

The body of the assassinated half-brother of North Korea's leader will be sent to Pyongyang and nine Malaysians freed, Malaysia's prime minister said Thursday, ending a bitter feud between the two countries.

Kim Jong-Nam was poisoned with the lethal nerve agent VX in a brazen Cold War-style assassination on February 13 in Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

The murder triggered a diplomatic dispute between Malaysia and North Korea, which expelled each other's ambassadors and barred their citizens from leaving.

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

"... following the completion of the autopsy on the deceased and receipt of a letter from his family requesting the remains be returned to North Korea, the coroner has approved the release of the body," Najib said in a statement.

The nine Malaysians prevented from leaving North Korea "have now been allowed to return to Malaysia", he said, declaring later on Twitter that the "diplomatic crisis is over".

"They took off from Pyongyang today at 7:45 pm (1145 GMT) Malaysian time, and will land in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow around 5:00 am," he said in the statement that referred to Kim as "the deceased" rather than by name.

South Korea has blamed Pyongyang for the killing, citing what they say was a standing order from the North's leader Kim Jong-Un to kill his exiled and estranged half-brother.

Kim Jong-Nam was assassinated with the lethal nerve agent VX at a Malaysian airport on February 13, 2017 play

Kim Jong-Nam was assassinated with the lethal nerve agent VX at a Malaysian airport on February 13, 2017

(AFP)

But the North denies this and denounced Malaysia's investigation as an attempt to smear the secretive regime.

It had insisted that the man died of a heart attack and his body should be handed over to Pyongyang.

N. Koreans in Malaysia freed

North Korean citizens in Kuala Lumpur will also be allowed to return home under the agreement, Najib said.

The statement came as a van believed to be carrying the body of Kim left a hospital morgue in Kuala Lumpur, where it had been kept for more than six weeks, and headed for the airport's cargo centre.

Chinese and Malaysian media reported it was put on board a Malaysian Airlines plane bound for Beijing that left Kuala Lumpur at 7:39 pm.

Two women -- one Vietnamese and one Indonesian -- have been arrested and charged with the murder. Airport CCTV footage shows them approaching the 45-year-old victim and apparently smearing his face with a piece of cloth.

Pyongyang has refused to confirm the identity of the victim, who was carrying a North Korean passport bearing the name of Kim Chol when he was killed.

Factfile on the poison that killed Kim Jong-Nam, according to Malaysian police play

Factfile on the poison that killed Kim Jong-Nam, according to Malaysian police

(AFP/File)

Malaysia however has officially confirmed his identity using DNA evidence and had said it had been waiting for his next of kin to claim the body.

Malaysian investigators are seeking seven North Korean suspects, four of whom left Malaysia on the day of the murder.

Malaysia's police chief has said he believes they fled to Pyongyang while the other three are hiding in North Korea's embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

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