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Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak attends an event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia March 8, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandra Radu

(reuters_tickers)

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - North Korea has guaranteed the safety of a group of Malaysian citizens stranded there by a travel ban imposed amid a diplomatic spat, Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Thursday.

North Korea on Tuesday barred Malaysians from leaving, sparking tit-for-tat action by Malaysia, as tension escalated over police investigations into the murder of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"The government of North Korea has given a guarantee of safety," Najib said in a message on social network Twitter. "They are free to do their daily activities, but they cannot leave the country."

Two Malaysian staffers at the United Nations had left Pyongyang and arrived in Beijing earlier on Thursday, leaving nine stranded in North Korea.

(Reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Reuters