Family and former neighbours of an 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 so far 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 with flaking red paint in a narrow alley of the densely populated Tambora neighbourhood in western Jakarta.

Her former father-in-law, Tjia Liong Kiong, who lives in a nearby middle-class neighbourhood and last saw Aisyah on January 28, 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.”

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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 Thursday.

This photo from Indonesian news portal Kumparan obtained on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017 shows the portrait on the passport of Siti Aisyah, 25, an Indonesian woman suspected to be involved in the killing of the North Korean leader’s half brother at Kuala Lumpur Airport on Monday, Feb. 13. Indonesian diplomats in Malaysia have met with the woman and confirmed she is an Indonesian citizen, officials said Thursday. (Kumparan via AP)

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

“Oh my God, how can I believe it,” said Aminah, a housewife who is one of Aisyah’s former Tambora neighbors.

“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,” said Aminah, who uses one name.

Aisyah’s mother, Benah, said by telephone 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 Quran. He even does not want to speak,” said Benah. “As villagers, we could only pray.”

Aisyah, according to Kiong, moved to Malaysia with his son in 2011 to seek a better life after their garment business collapsed. The couple left their nearly two-year-old son in Jakarta, to be raised by Akiong and his wife since then.

Residents walk in a narrow alley where the house of Siti Aisyah, the Indonesian woman suspected of being involved in the killing of the North Korean leader’s half brother in Malaysia, is located in Tambora neighborhood in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. Family and former neighbors of Aisyah are stunned by the arrest of the young mother who they say was a polite and quiet “nice girl.” (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

Malaysia, which is approaching developed-nation income levels, is a magnet for millions of Indonesians, who typically find work there as maids and construction and plantation workers.

A year after leaving Indonesia, Aisyah returned to Jakarta and told Kiong she wanted a divorce from his son because he’d changed and the marriage had become unhappy. Kiong said his son gave a different account: Aisyah was having an affair with a Malaysian man.

The divorce was finalised in 2012 and Aisyah told Kiong she was living with her parents in Serang in Banten province that neighbours Jakarta and working in a shoe store. A few months later she was on the move again, telling Kiong she was working in a clothing shop on Batam, an Indonesian island near Singapore and Malaysia.

This image provided by Star TV on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, of closed circuit television footage from Monday, Feb 13, 2017, shows a woman, center in white, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, who police say was arrested Wednesday in connection with the death of Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (Star TV via AP)

Respiratory illness

At their last meeting in late January when Aisyah visited her son, Kiong thought she looked very slim and when his wife asked if she was sick, Aisyah said she’d had a respiratory illness.

Indonesian immigration said on Thursday that Aisyah entered Malaysia on February 2 by ferry from Batam.

Rahmat Yusri, head of the neighbourhood where Aisyah lived, did not believe she could commit murder.

“I was so surprised when I heard that because I knew her well,” Yusri said. “I did not believe it because she is an innocent, a quiet woman who came from a village.”

FILE – This combination of file photos shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, on May 10, 2016, in Pyongyang, North Korea, and Kim Jong Nam, right, exiled half brother of Kim Jong Un, in Narita, Japan, on May 4, 2001. Kim Jong Nam, 46, was targeted Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia, and later died on the way to hospital according to a Malaysian government official. (AP Photos/Wong Maye-E, Shizuo Kambayashi, File)


AP writer Ali Kotarumalos in Jakarta contributed.

Author: ANA Newswire