North Korea has announced that Jang Song Thaek, the uncle of leader Kim Jong Un and formerly the second most powerful man in the country, has been executed after being found guilty of treason by a military tribunal.
"The accused Jang brought together undesirable forces and formed a faction as the boss of a modern day factional group for a long time and thus committed such hideous crime as attempting to overthrow the state," North Korea's official KCNA news agency said.
He "behaved so arrogantly and insolently as unwillingly standing up from his seat and half-heartedly clapping, touching off towering resentment of our service personnel and people," KCNA wrote after the sentence.
The news agency called Jang, who had been helping Kim consolidate power in the wake of his father's death two years ago, "worse than a dog."
The news comes just days after Jang was dramatically and unceremoniously removed by armed guards from a Communist Party meeting in the capital, Pyongyang.
Reports first surfaced early this month that Jang was suddenly on the outs and that two of his top aides had been executed. Earlier this week, he was accused in state media of womanizing, drug abuse, being "affected by the capitalist lifestyle," pretending to "uphold the party and leader," and for "dreaming different dreams."
The State Department's deputy spokesman, Marie Harf, commented on the news:
"While we cannot independently verify this development, we have no reason to doubt the official KCNA report that Jang Song Thaek has been executed," Harf said. "If confirmed, this is another example of the extreme brutality of the North Korean regime. We are following developments in North Korea closely and consulting with our allies and partners in the region."
As NPR's Krishnadev Calamur has reported: "Jang, until recently, was seen as close to Kim Jong Un and was seen in many photographs with his nephew."
Jang was reportedly a supporter of Chinese-style economic reforms, and he was also a key liaison to Beijing, one of North Korea's few allies.
Back in 2010, NPR's Mike Shuster reported that then-leader Kim Jong Il had elevated Jang to the No. 2 spot in the government.
And, as NPR's Louisa Lim reported last year, Jang had been dispatched to China to win an agreement for two new special economic zones between the two countries, only to return home empty-handed.