North Korea has executed the uncle of its leader Kim Jong-Un after a shock purge, AFP reported on Thursday, citing the state news agency KCNA.
The uncle, Jang Song-Thaek, was described by the North Korean report as "despicable human scum" and a "traitor for all ages.”
Jang was executed on Thursday shortly after a special military trial, KCNA reported, after committing such a "hideous crime as attempting to overthrow the state by all sorts of intrigues and despicable methods with a wild ambition to grab the supreme power of our party and state."
"The accused is a traitor to the nation for all ages who perpetrated anti-party, counter-revolutionary factional acts in a bid to overthrow the leadership of our party and state and the socialist system," the news agency said.
In a viciously-worded attack, the regime accused Jang of betraying the trust of both Kim Jong-Un and his father Kim Jong-Il, saying he had received "deeper trust" from the younger leader in particular.
Branding Jang "despicable human scum... worse than a dog", the regime accused him of attempting to stand in the way of Kim Jong-Un's succession, according to KCNA.
Jang let in "undesirable and alien elements" to a department of the party's crucial Central Committee in a bid to "rally a group of reactionaries to be used by him for toppling the leadership of the party and state", it said.
Washington said it could not verify the report but had no reason to doubt that Jang had been executed.
"If confirmed, this is another example of the extreme brutality of the North Korean regime," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf was quoted by AFP as having said.
"We are following developments in North Korea closely and consulting with our allies and partners in the region," she noted.
Analysts said a widespread purge was likely to be carried out against those associated with Jang, especially those at the Central Committee's administrative department he had headed.
During the court hearing, Jang said he attempted to stage a coup d'etat by mobilizing his associates in the military, according to KCNA.
The court found him guilty of attempting to overthrow the state in breach of the Criminal Law and handed out a death sentence to punish him sternly "in the name of revolution and the people."
"The death sentence was executed immediately," KCNA said.
Jang, who was married to the sister of the late Kim Jong-Il, played a key role in cementing the leadership of the inexperienced Kim. Earlier this week, Jang - seen as Kim's political regent and the country's unofficial number two - had been stripped of all posts and titles, with the regime accusing him of corruption and building a rival power base.
Earlier this year, North Korea got in a row with its southern neighbor, with the United States and Japan, as it moved two mid-range missiles to its east coast and issued a series of apocalyptic threats of nuclear war.
The country even threatened a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States at one point.
The United Nations has imposed a number of economic and other sanctions against North Korea in an attempt to stop Pyongyang from continuing its headlong rush towards military nuclear development.
North Korea has ignored international efforts to impede the progress of its nuclear development activities.