Saudi Arabia told to come clean over disappearance of journalist

Saudi Arabia told to come clean over disappearance of exiled journalist ‘chopped up in embassy’ by alleged 15-member assassination squad

  • Saudi Arabia faced mounting pressure to come clean over Jamal Khashoggi 
  • They failed to release any proof the exiled journalist left Istanbul consulate alive
  • Identities of an alleged 15-member Saudi assassination squad surfaced  
  • It is said to include a special forces officer and members of the royal guard

Saudi Arabia was last night facing mounting international pressure to come clean over the disappearance of exiled journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

As the kingdom failed to release any proof that the dissident left its consulate in Istanbul alive, the identities of an alleged 15-member assassination squad surfaced.

The team is said to include a Saudi special forces officer, members of the royal guard and a senior forensics expert.

Saudi Arabia was last night facing mounting international pressure to come clean over the disappearance of exiled journalist Jamal Khashoggi, pictured in December 2014

How the ‘hit squad’, said to include a Saudi special forces officer, swooped

Another was named as Maher Mutreb, described online as a colonel in Saudi intelligence, stationed previously at the Saudi embassy in London for two years.Their identities emerged as:

  • US intelligence was said to have intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing a plan to capture him;
  • Turkish investigators were examining CCTV showing the movements of the alleged hit squad;
  • It was revealed consulate staff were reportedly given the afternoon off on the day Mr Khashoggi went missing because of a ‘high level’ meeting;
  • Turkish officials claimed he was murdered on the orders of the royal court in a scene like ‘Pulp Fiction’ which included use of a bone saw;
  • US President Donald Trump said he had talked to Saudi authorities ‘at the highest level’ to demand answers;
  • The Spectator reported claims that Mr Khashoggi had been offered a role as an adviser if he returned to Saudi Arabia but had declined because of ‘moral and religious’ principles.

Mr Khashoggi vanished on October 2 after entering his country’s consulate to obtain official documents ahead of his marriage to his Turkish fiancee Hatice Cengiz. Turkish sources believe he was tortured, killed and dismembered. They said at the weekend they believed Mr Khashoggi was killed by a team sent to Istanbul and thought to consist of 15 Saudis.

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Arriving to ‘death’ – 1.14pm: Jamal Khashoggi, right, at Saudi consulate in Istanbul

Pro-government Turkish newspaper Sabah yesterday published the names and photographs of 15 nationals who flew in on the day of his disappearance. They allegedly arrived in Istanbul on board at least two private jets in the early hours of October 2 and checked into two five-star hotels – the Movenpick and the Wyndham.

CCTV released by Turkish TV showed a man believed to be Mr Khashoggi enter the consulate as well as a vehicle entering and leaving the building after he went inside. Footage also showed some of the Saudis arriving in Istanbul.

It is said some of the men went into the Saudi consulate before Mr Khashoggi. According to the images, a vehicle that went inside the consulate was then driven to the consul-general’s residence nearby, around two hours after Mr Khashoggi had gone in.

On the move – 3.08pm: Vehicles with diplomatic plates leave the Istanbul consulate

One of them, a Mercedes Vito, stops for several hours at Saudi consul general’s residence

Askam newspaper speculated it was ‘almost certain’ that Mr Khashoggi had been taken in the vehicle. Media also reported the possibility Mr Khashoggi was taken aboard one of the private planes. Both aircraft later returned to Riyadh with one stopping in Dubai and the other in Egypt, it was claimed.

Sabah published the names and images of what it called the ‘assassination team’. Two appeared to be members of the Saudi royal guard, pictured in a photograph next to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

Police were seen entering the consulate yesterday but it is understood the Saudis rescinded an offer to allow forensic experts onto the premises after details of the Saudi identities emerged.

Riyadh has insisted Mr Khashoggi, 59, left the building alive and murder claims are ‘baseless’. It says CCTV at the consulate were not working on the day in question.

Fiancée ‘overcome with fear’ 

Worried fiancée: Hatice Cengiz, circled right, makes a call outside the consulate

Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancee yesterday spoke of her ‘fear and concern’ for his wellbeing.

Hatice Cengiz spent 11 hours waiting for the journalist after he went into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain paperwork for their marriage.

‘I don’t know how I can keep living if he was abducted or killed in Turkey,’ the 36-year-old wrote in the Washington Post, the paper Mr Khashoggi worked for.

Miss Cengiz, who lives in Istanbul, said she believed she was the woman seen in CCTV footage taken outside the consulate.

‘We were in the middle of making wedding plans, life plans,’ she added. ‘After the consulate, we were going to buy appliances for our new home and set a date. All we needed was a piece of paper.’

Miss Cengiz said Mr Khashoggi had visited the consulate on September 28 despite some concern that he could be in danger.

She wrote: ‘Although his opinions had angered certain people, he said, the tensions between himself and Saudi Arabia did not amount to hate, grudges or threats.

‘He was, however, increasingly worried about an unprecedented wave of arrests in his country.’

She said he did not think the Saudis could force him to stay at the consulate, adding: ‘He did not believe that something bad could happen on Turkish soil. After a positive first meeting with consular staff, who welcomed him warmly and assured him that the necessary paperwork would come through, Jamal was hardly concerned ahead of his second visit.

‘He walked into the consulate of Saudi Arabia, his native country, without doubting he would be safe there. But after three hours I was overcome with fear and concern.’

She went in to ask where he was but was told he had left without her noticing. ‘Although my hope slowly fades away each passing day, I remain confident that Jamal is still alive,’ she added.

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