North Korea’s Defence Minister Hyon Yong-chol has been executed, South Korea’s spy agency has told parliament, according to media reports.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said MPs were told Mr Hyon had been killed on 30 April by anti-aircraft fire in front of an audience of hundreds.
He is believed to have been accused of showing disloyalty to North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un.
Reports from North Korea are impossible to independently confirm.
There were few details of the reported execution, but Yonhap – quoting a briefing by the South Korea’s National Intelligence Agency (NIS) – said Mr Hyon had fallen asleep during an event attended by Kim Jong-un and had not carried out instructions.
Mr Hyon is believed to have been a general since 2010, though little is known about him. He served on the committee for late leader Kim Jong-il’s funeral in December 2011, an indication of his growing influence.
He became defence minister in 2012 following a purge which saw several senior officials removed or executed, including Kim’s uncle, Chang Song-thaek.
Chang – once North Korea’s second-most powerful figure – was arrested in December 2013 in front of a party meeting and accused of plotting against his nephew.
He was found guilty of treason and immediately executed, a move many analysts saw as the young Mr Kim stamping his authority on North Korea after coming to power.
Last month, a rights groups released satellite images it said showed unusual activity on a small arms range at the Kanggon army training area in October 2014.
The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea said the images – which could not be confirmed – showed large weaponry facing a very close target, a viewing area and several passenger vehicles.
It said the “most plausible explanation” for the image was a “gruesome public execution” by anti-aircraft fire. – UNB