The Washington Post has reported, citing anonymous sources, that an obscure dissident group was behind a violent break-in into the North Korean embassy in Spain, defying reports in local media that the CIA was involved.
A group of ten unidentified men stormed into the North Korean embassy in Madrid on February 22, several days before the summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Vietnam. According to reports in Spanish media, the attackers tied up and gagged the staff, placing hoods over their heads. They then seized documents, computers and other electronic devices before dashing away in two diplomatic vehicles they soon abandoned.
While the investigation into the bizarre, brazen, action movie-style attack has been shrouded in secrecy, some shreds of information have been leaked to the Spanish media, with Spanish outlets El Pais and El Confidencial reporting that police now believe that at least two of the attackers were connected to the CIA.
The reports were received with a grain of salt by the mainstream media, reported cautiously by most and outright rejected by some. Yahoo called the allegations “unlikely” while citing former CIA officials. Senior editor at The Diplomat, Akit Panda, came out in CIA’s defense on Twitter.
Amid concerns that the reported raid by the CIA might drive a wedge between Washington and Madrid and derail the negotiations between North Korea and the US, already reportedly on the brink of collapse, the WaPo reported on Friday that the operation was conducted by a “secretive dissident organization.” The attackers supposedly have a video of the raid and can release it “anytime.”
The organization, Cheollima Civil Defense, did not claim its responsibility for the incident, despite being open about its less high-profile stunts, such as defacing the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on Monday. The WaPo cited people “familiar with the planning and execution of the mission” in its report, supported by opinions of several experts, including former CIA analyst Sue Mi Terry.
“This is not something the CIA would undertake,” Sue asserted.
The WaPo gives no explanation as to why the group, also known as “Free Joseon” decided to fight Kim by attacking the embassy in Madrid and keeping mum about it. The group, though obscure, is not one to hide its intentions, having recently published a manifesto calling on North Koreans to rise up against Pyongyang.
The group also reportedly arranged the evacuation of Kim’s nephew and the son of his killed half-brother Kim Jong-nam from Macau in 2017. At the time, the group worked in coordination with the US, Chinese and Dutch governments, it told the Wall Street Journal.
Shortly after the WaPo’s scoop came out, the Washington Examiner’s columnist Tom Rogan heaped scorn on El Pais for reporting the alleged CIA link in the first place – and blaming Russia.
“Perhaps the Russians told them [El Pais] the CIA was involved,” Rogan wrote, providing no evidence apart from calling El Pais an “anti-American newspaper.”
However, the WaPo is now also taking some heat on Twitter for being CIA-apologists.
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