Kim Jong-nam

Family, friends describe ‘nice girl’ embroiled in assassination of North Korean leader’s half-brother

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 February, 2017, 9:27pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 February, 2017, 9:40pm

Family and former neighbours of the Indonesian woman suspected of involvement in the audacious killing of the North Korean leader’s half-brother in Malaysia are stunned by the arrest of the young mother who they say was a polite and quiet “nice girl”.

Siti Aisyah, 25, is one of three people arrested by Malaysian ­police for possible involvement in the apparent assassination of Kim Jong-nam.

Between 2008 and 2011 she and her then-husband lived in a modest dwelling in a narrow alley of the densely populated Tambora neighbourhood in west Jakarta.

Her former father-in-law Tjia Liang Kiong, who lives in a nearby middle-class neighbourhood and last saw Aisyah in late January, described her as a “very kind, ­polite and respectful person”.

“I was shocked to hear that she was arrested for murdering someone,” he said. “I don’t believe that she would commit such a crime or what the media says – that she is an intelligence agent.”

The three suspects – Aisyah, a woman carrying a Vietnamese passport and a man said to be Aisyah’s Malaysian boyfriend – were arrested separately on Wednesday and on Thursday.

The women were identified using surveillance videos from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, where

Kim Jong-nam suddenly fell ill on Monday morning. Malaysian officials said he died on the way to a hospital after telling medical workers at the airport that he had been sprayed with a chemical.

Multiple South Korean media reports, citing unidentified sources, said two women believed to be North Korean agents killed him with some kind of poison ­before fleeing in a taxi.

News of Aisyah’s arrest has captivated Indonesia’s scandal-and-mystery loving media, with some outlets characterising her as a spy.

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“Oh my God, how can I believe it,” said Aminah, a housewife who is one of Aisyah’s former Tambora neighbours. “She’s very nice with all the people here, she’s so naive. How she can kill a great man? No way, it’s impossible.”

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Aisyah’s mother, Benah, said that the family comes from a humble village background and has no ability to help her: “Since we heard that from the television, I could not sleep and eat. Same as her father, he just prays and reads the holy Koran.”