CIA denies involvement in Madrid North Korea embassy attack

Spanish officials have allegedly linked the CIA to an attack in Spain, but intelligence experts find the plot unrealistic

A view of North Korea's embassy in Madrid, Spain, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. Spanish authorities said police were investigating an incident last week at the North Korean Embassy in Madrid in which a woman was hurt and, according to a North Korean government's aide, computers and cellphones also were stolen. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
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The US Central Intelligence Agency has denied involvement in an attack last month at the North Korean embassy in Madrid, contradicting alleged claims by Spanish authorities.

Spanish media alleges that 10 assailants broke into the North Korean embassy in Madrid on February 22 in broad daylight, and interrogated its staff in order to get information on former North Korean ambassador Kim Hyok Chol, a close confidant of country’s leader Kim Jong Un.

According to El Pais newspaper, Spanish investigators from the Spanish police and National Intelligence Center (CNI) linked two of the assailants to the CIA. "Although most of the [assailants] were Korean, at least two of them have been identified by Spanish intelligence services as having links to the CIA," the paper said.

But the CIA has vehemently denied any involvement in the operation that took place five days before Donald Trump's failed summit with Kim Jong Un in Vietnam. The agency did not immediately respond to an email request from The National.

Mr Chol, the man whom the attack allegedly sought information about, is a career North Korean diplomat and the key negotiator in talks with the US. He visited the White House in January and met Mr Trump, but was expelled from Spain two weeks ago.

Intelligence experts have said that CIA involvement in such a plot was unlikely.

"The story comes across as very fishy," intelligence analyst Aki Peritz told The National. "Why would the CIA break into an embassy in the middle of a Thursday afternoon—and not, say, in the middle of the night? And why [would they do it] right before a major summit between Trump and Kim?"

Norm Roule who served in the CIA for 34 years tweeted on Thursday that the operation looked like a burglary attempt. “The idea that any US intel agency would be authorized to enter an embassy, tie up, and beat local staff is bizarre. Sounds like a failed robbery,” he said.