North Korea says delegates it sent to a United Nations' conference in NY were "literally mugged" by U.S. authorities as they tried to leave John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday.
"At the airport, a group of more than 20 including those who claimed to be from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the police officers made a violent assault like gangsters to take away the diplomatic package from the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) diplomats who were in possession of a valid diplomatic courier certificate", a spokesman for North Korea's foreign ministry told the news agency.
"The reported aggression was initiated by the North Koreans".
David Lapan, deputy assistant secretary for media operations at the DHS, said the package in question, which was amongst several items seized, had no diplomatic protection from inspection.
The North Koreans were not held by U.S. authorities but refused to board their flight out of JFK, the DHS statement said.
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The attackers were killed by police. "There's a lots of people from Nigeria, from Tunisia from Morocco, from the Arab countries". Eyewitness Boubou Sougou told Guardian reporter Vikram Dodd that the driver "deliberately piled into people on the pavement".
The controversy comes amid rising tensions between the two countries, as North Korea leader Kim Jong-un continues to test the patience of US President Donald Trump with his relentless testing of missiles.
The US has responded with military shows of force in waters around the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea accused the USA of carrying out "a violent assault like gangsters" after a package was taken from delegates at JFK airport.
"This mugging act of the USA serves as a graphic account telling the world how reckless and despicable the US hostile policy towards the DPRK has become", North Korea said, using the acronym for its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The hermit state is now warning the U.S. that it should "reflect on its reckless act" and "be fully aware of the grave consequences to follow".
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On Tuesday, North Korea released American college student Otto Warmbier, who is in a coma after 17 months of captivity.
He was subsequently sentenced to 15 years of hard labour on charges of committing the "hostile act" of stealing a political poster from a wall in his hotel.
The 22-year-old was returned to the U.S. in a long-term coma, which the North said was due to botulism and sleeping pills.
North Korea said he had contracted botulism before slipping into a coma, but USA doctors said there was no evidence of that.
According to the KCNA report, a North Korean delegation was on its way home from the Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the United Nations via Kennedy Airport on Friday.
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Police said the 48-year-old man who was driving the auto has been arrested and taken to a hospital as a precaution. Eight people were taken to hospital and two more were treated for minor injuries at the scene.
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