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Passengers believed to be North Koreans including Kim Uk Il (L) are seen inside an airplane for the flight bound for Beijing, at an airport in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, in this photo taken by Kyodo March 30, 2017. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

(reuters_tickers)

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Two, possibly three, North Koreans wanted for questioning over the murder of the estranged half-brother of their country's leader were believed to have accompanied the coffin of the victim on a flight from Kuala Lumpur after Malaysia agreed a swap deal with the reclusive state.

Photographs obtained by Reuters from Japan's Kyodo news agency show Hyon Kwang Song, the second secretary at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and Kim Uk Il, a staff member of North Korea’s state airline Air Koryo were on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on Thursday evening.

The pictures match those released by the Malaysian police earlier. The coffin carrying the body of Kim Jong Nam was also believed to have been on the same flight, though this has not been confirmed by authorities.

Malaysian media reported that the third North Korean, Ri Ji U, also known as James, who had been hiding with them at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur was also allowed to go home. The three men and the coffin are expected to be transferred to a flight to Pyongyang.

Malaysian authorities released the body Kim Jong Nam to North Korea on Thursday, in a deal that secured the release of nine Malaysian citizens held in Pyongyang after a drawn out diplomatic spat.

(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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