KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Two women accused of smearing VX nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half brother of North Korea's leader, were charged with murder Wednesday after arriving in court under heavy protection.
Kim Jong Nam was attacked at a busy Kuala Lumpur airport terminal on Feb. 13 and died shortly after two women went up behind him and wiped something onto his face.
Both women have reportedly said they thought they were part of a prank TV show playing harmless tricks on unsuspecting passengers. One of the suspects, an Indonesian woman, told authorities that she was paid the equivalent of $90.
The two women arrived in court Wednesday under the protection of special forces carrying machine guns.
Kim's death is at the center of a heated diplomatic battle between North Korea and Malaysia.
Speculation is rampant that North Korea was behind the killing, particularly after Malaysia said Friday that VX had killed Kim. Experts say the oily poison was almost certainly produced in a sophisticated state weapons laboratory.
On Tuesday, a high-level North Korean delegation arrived in Kuala Lumpur seeking custody of his body.
North Korea opposed Malaysian officials even conducting an autopsy, while Malaysia has resisted giving up the body without getting DNA samples and confirmation from next of kin.
he delegation includes Ri Tong Il, a former North Korean deputy ambassador to the United Nations, who told reporters Tuesday outside the North Korean Embassy that the diplomats were in Malaysia to retrieve the body and seek the release of a North Korean arrested in the case. He said the delegation also wants "development of the friendly relationship" between North Korea and Malaysia.
Malaysian officials have confirmed that the victim of the attack was Kim Jong Nam. North Korea, however, has identified him only as a North Korean national with a diplomatic passport bearing the name Kim Chol.