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Malaysia to swap prisoners for body of North Korean leader’s slain half brother

Kim Jong Nam, half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, is seen in a 2001 file photo.

AP

Last Updated Mar 30, 2017 10:30 AM EDT

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Malaysia says it has agreed to release the body of Kim Jong Nam to North Korea in exchange for the return of nine Malaysians held in the North’s capital.

Relations between Malaysia and North Korea have been badly frayed by the murder of the North Korean leader’s half brother at Kuala Lumpur’s airport. Both countries withdrew their ambassadors and North Korea blocked nine Malaysians from leaving the country. Malaysia responded in kind, barring North Koreans from exiting its soil.

Following negotiations that he described as “very sensitive,” Prime Minister Najib Razak said Thursday that North Korea had allowed the nine Malaysians to leave, and that Malaysia had agreed to release Kim’s remains to North Korea. He didn’t say if Kim’s body had left Malaysia.

Kim was poisoned at the airport on Feb. 13 by two women using a banned nerve agent, according to Malaysian officials. North Korea, which is widely suspected to be behind the attack, has rejected the autopsy findings.