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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 April 2019

North Korean rights group says it raided Pyongyang’s Spanish embassy

US reportedly gains valuable hard data from outpost run by Kim Jong-un acolyte

Police only became aware of the break-in when an embassy worker managed to escape. Getty. 
Police only became aware of the break-in when an embassy worker managed to escape. Getty. 

A mysterious human rights group devoted to destabilising North Korea’s regime and protecting defectors has claimed responsibility for a raid on Pyongyang’s embassy in Spain last month.

A Spanish judge said on Tuesday that embassy workers were shackled and assaulted by the 10 attackers, who made off with hard drives, computers and documents that they then offered to the FBI.

The Cheollima Civil Defence said it had “responded to an urgent situation in the Madrid” diplomatic mission. It was not an attack and the group insisted no one was gagged or beaten.

It claimed North Korea’s agencies are hubs for drug and arms trafficking, and launchpads for assassinations, kidnappings and espionage.

North Korea's ambassador to Spain, Kim Hyok Chol, was expelled in September 2017 and is now the regime's chief nuclear negotiator with the US. It is unclear if this is related to the embassy incursion.

The ringleader was named as Adrian Hong Chang, a Mexican citizen living in the US. He flew back to the US on February 23 and offered the intelligence to the FBI according to Spanish authorities, who have now issued an arrest warrant for him.

Speculation had begun to build over the perpetrators' identities in the past month, when leaks began to appear in the press.

“Some time later, some journalists began writing speculative stories about the incident in Madrid, and the identities or affiliations of those involved, citing US government sources,” the group said in the statement released on Tuesday, not long after the Spanish authorities released their findings.

“That information was leaked to the media was a profound betrayal of trust. We ourselves never spoke to the media or shared any information with them,” it said.

The apparent attack took place only a week before the high-profile and failed summit between Mr Kim, the North Korean leader, and US President Donald Trump. Cheollima Civil Defence said the event was not related to their actions in Madrid.

It only came to public attention when an embassy employee escaped from the building and raised the alarm. When police came to check the situation, Mr Hong Chang reportedly greeted them posing as a diplomat, ensuring everything was fine before fleeing not long after.

“Embassies around the world run by the current Pyongyang regime are not like the traditional diplomatic, commercial, and cultural outposts of legitimate governments that serve their nation's interests and respect international norms,”

“This charade of pretending that the regime is a normal government must stop‐the regime is simply a giant criminal enterprise,” it added.

Cheollima Civil Defense has previously provided emergency protection to the family of Kim Jong-nam, whose murder in 2017 was allegedly ordered by his half-brother and current North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un.

It released a video last week of an unknown person smashing portraits of North Korea’s previous two leaders Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jon-il on “our homelands soil." It is unclear if this happened in the Korean peninsula or a diplomatic mission.

Updated: March 27, 2019 04:19 PM

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