NATIONAL

NK Embassy in Spain attackers linked to CIA: report

By Kim So-hyun
  • Published : Mar 14, 2019 - 14:42
  • Updated : Mar 14, 2019 - 14:43

Spanish police and intelligence have linked an attack on the North Korean Embassy in Madrid on Feb. 22 to the US Central Intelligence Agency, Spain’s daily El Pais reported Wednesday.

At least two of the 10 assailants who broke into the embassy, tied up staff and stole computers and cellphones have been identified to have connections to the CIA, according to the newspaper.


(AP)

The CIA has denied any involvement, but Spanish government sources said their response was “unconvincing,” El Pais said, adding that should the CIA be proven to have been behind the attack, it could lead to a diplomatic row between Madrid and Washington.

The newspaper quoted unnamed Spanish government sources as saying that it would be “unacceptable” for an ally to violate international conventions that protect diplomatic delegations on Spanish soil.

Spanish investigators ruled out the possibility that the attack was by common criminals as the attackers knew what they were looking for, taking only computers and cellphones. The operation was perfectly planned as if carried out by a “military cell,” sources close to the investigation were quoted as saying by the newspaper.

El Pais said that sources believe the attack was intended to get information on former North Korean Ambassador to Spain Kim Hyok-chol, who negotiated nuclear disarmament plans with US special envoy Stephen Biegun ahead of the US-North Korea summit in Hanoi on Feb. 27-28.

Kim had served as ambassador at the embassy until September 2017, when Spain expelled him on grounds that North Korea’s nuclear test breached United Nations Security Council resolutions.

The attack on Feb. 22 was initially reported by Spanish online newspaper El Confidencial on Feb. 27, prompting Spain’s National Intelligence Center and police intelligence division to investigate the case.

On Feb. 22 at 3 p.m., 10 masked men carrying imitation weapons broke into the embassy located north of Madrid in the residential area of Aravaca. They tied up eight people inside and put bags over their heads. The hostages were beaten and interrogated. A woman escaped through a window on the second floor and screamed for help, which alerted a neighbor to call police.

When officers arrived at the scene, a man opened the door and told them nothing was going on. Minutes after that, two vehicles belonging to the embassy left the premises. They were later found abandoned on a nearby street.

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)