A group of 10 men entered the perimeter of the North Korean embassy in Madrid and beat, restrained, and interrogated eight people who were inside it. The incident took place five days before the meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Reconstructing the events
On Feb. 22 around 3 p.m., a group of about 10 people with gun replicas and masked faces entered the North Korean embassy in Madrid and tied up, beat and interrogated embassy staff members.
A woman managed to break free and escape from the second floor window to look for help. Neighbors who had been alarmed by the screams called the police. When officers arrived, they were greeted by an Asian man who reassured them that nothing had happened.
A few minutes later, the man and the other attackers fled at full speed in two cars. Inside, the officers found eight people bound and gagged. Two of them needed medical attention. The cars, owned by the North Korean diplomatic corps, were found abandoned a few hours later.
Foreign intelligence’s involvement
Given the way it was carried out, police immediately ruled out that the event was the work of common criminals. Investigators believe the operation was meticulously planned, similar to the way a military special ops unit would do. Supporting this hypothesis is fact that the only objects stolen were cell phones and computers. The victims reported that the attackers were speaking Korean, presumably from South Korea.
At first the event of an involvement of American intelligence had been feared. According to El Pais, authorities had highlighted some links between two of the assailants and the Central Intelligence Agency.
In a March 15 article, The Washington Post claims to have obtained information from people affiliated with planning and execution. The attackers would have acted without the support of any foreign government, in particular the United States, which avoided getting involved just before the Hanoi summit.
It would be the secret organization of North Korean dissidents, known as "Cheollima Civil Defense", whose main objective is to subvert the regime of Kim Jong Un.
Meanwhile, investigators’ probes continue. One conjecture is that the assailants were looking for information on Kim Hyok Chol, former North Korean ambassador to Madrid and today one of the key figures in attempts at dialogue between the United States and North Korea.
The diplomat was declared a persona non grata and expelled from Spain in September 2017, by the then Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis, due to the nuclear tests conducted by North Korea in violation of the UN Security Council resolution.
Kim Hyok Chol is one of the most trusted diplomats of the North Korean leader. He is also one of the architects of the recent summit between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump; last Feb.; he was one of Pyongyang's envoys to Washington.