An underground group working to oust North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un has claimed responsibility for the raid on the North Korean embassy in Spain last month, while authorities accuse the group members of having connections to the CIA and offering stolen information to the FBI.
Cheollima Civil Defense, a self-styled human rights group, issued a statement confirming their participation in the raid on the embassy, while offering their perspective of what exactly happened during the four-hour operation.
“The regime’s embassies and offices are hubs of illicit narcotics and arms trafficking, mediums for the furtherance of propaganda of a totalitarian regime that systematically commit crimes against humanity against its own (and others) without current parallel,” the group said in a statement.
“The regime’s embassies and offices are hubs of illicit narcotics and arms trafficking, mediums for the furtherance of propaganda of a totalitarian regime that systematically commit crimes against humanity against its own (and others) without current parallel.”
The group claims in its list of achievements that it had arranged the escape of Kim Han Sol, the son of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un who was assassinated at a Malaysian airport in 2017.
It openly calls for the end of the totalitarian regime in North Korea, sharing videos in which people destroy symbols of the regime. It also once painted “Let's topple Kim Jong Un” on the wall of the North Korean Embassy in Malaysia.
But the group denied the claims made by the Spanish authorities that embassy workers were beaten and gagged.
“That said, this was not an attack. We responded to an urgent situation in the Madrid embassy. We were invited into the embassy, and contrary to reports, no one was gagged or beaten,” the group claimed.
The Spanish high court judge accused the group of approaching the FBI and offering the stolen information such as computers and documents, though Cheollima Civil Defense claims they weren’t the first ones to initiate the contact.
“That said, this was not an attack. We responded to an urgent situation in the Madrid embassy. We were invited into the embassy, and contrary to reports, no one was gagged or beaten.”
The supposed contact with the FBI was revealed in the midst of claims by Spanish intelligence officials that at least two attackers had ties to the CIA.
“The organization shared certain information of enormous potential value with the FBI in the United States, under mutually agreed terms of confidentiality. This information was shared voluntarily and on their request, not our own. Those terms appear to have been broken,” the statement said.
Authorities said that the 10 members of the group shackled and interrogated the staffers during the raid and attempted to convince the embassy’s commercial attaché to defect from North Korea, albeit unsuccessfully.
The statement from the group comes after the judge lifted a secrecy order on Tuesday and accused an American, Mexican and South Korean of carrying out the attack in broad daylight.
Adrian Hong Chang, a Mexican national and resident in the United States, was named as the leader of the group that was branded by Spain as “criminal.”
Hong is known for his work of helping North Koreans escape the regime and settle in South Korea or other countries.
According to court records, the embassy attackers managed to escape the authorities after speeding out of the embassy in luxury vehicles, splitting into small groups and boarding into a plane bound for New Jersey, local Spanish newspaper El Pais reported.
The Spanish judge who’s in charge of the investigation has also issued two international arrest warrants against two of the perpetrators, according to the newspaper.
The U.S. government has repeatedly denied any involvement in the break-in of the embassy.
The anti-North Korean group ended their statement accusing those trying to find out their identities of siding with the regime.
“It may take some more months of political theater to realize Pyongyang is once again acting with treachery, and not before the regime emerges with even more capacity for great harm to others,” it said.
“Parties seeking to ‘out’ those in Madrid have painted a target on the backs of those seeking only to protect others; they have chosen to side with Pyongyang’s criminal, totalitarian rulers over their victims.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.