The body of Kim Jong-Nam has arrived in North Korea, along with three people wanted for questioning by Malaysian authorities over his murder.
"They have assisted us and they have been allowed to leave".
Earlier this month, Malaysian national police chief Khalid Abu Bakar hinted that the men had valuable intelligence, adding that he would wait to question them, "even if it takes five years".
It did allow a letter from someone purporting to be the next-of-kin in North Korea to be forwarded to Malaysia, authorising the body's release, but the Malaysians are not saying whose name was on that letter; Kim Jong-nam's son, who should be the closest relative, lives in exile, as his father did.
Television footage obtained by Reuters from Japanese media showed two of the suspects, Hyon Kwang-song, the second secretary at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and Kim Uk-il, a North Korean state airline employee, on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
The police chief confirmed they were accompanied by compatriot Ri Ji U, also known as James, who had been hiding with them at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur. The cleared suspects and the body of Kim Jong-nam are now in Pyongyang.
The issue of who would have custody of the body of the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was a flashpoint in the diplomatic row. The news was one of two major developments Friday likely to cheer the North Korean leadership, with Park Geun-hye, the ousted former president of arch-rival South Korea, arrested the same day on charges of bribery and other crimes.
Feb 19: Police release images of four North Korean suspects, believed to have fled Malaysia on Feb 13.
Commenting further, Najib said the committee that was set up had to go through numerous problems including having to attend meetings as early as 3am besides changes being made at the last minute by North Korea.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is now on an official visit in India, issued a statement announcing the return of the body, but did not mention Kim by name.
For now, Prime Minister Najib's recent public remarks expressing his hope that a "case like this" doesn't happen again, suggests that diplomatic ties, while frayed, will continue but with Pyongyang effectively on probation.
"It will harm the relationship between the two countries", he said.
On Thursday, Najib had announced the return of the body, but did not mention Kim by name.
"However, eventually the agreements reached had been respected by North Korea and all the nine Malaysian nationals had returned home safely", he said.
Kim Jong Nam (left) had spoken out publicly against his family's dynastic control of the isolated, nuclear-armed nation and Kim Jong Un had reportedly issued a "standing order" for his half-brother's assassination in 2012.