A little over a week ago, a prominent Saudi journalist walked into the consulate general in Istanbul, intending to get paperwork that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiancée. She hasn’t seen him since.
Since then, officials and journalists have scrambled to piece together the story of what happened to Jamal Khashoggi.
Closed-circuit television footage, flight trackers, intercepted communications and even a bone saw have served as pieces of a puzzle that has spurred a diplomatic outcry.
In the latest development, top Turkish security officials concluded that the “highest levels of the royal court” in Saudi Arabia ordered the assassination of Khashoggi, according to a senior official cited by The New York Times.
The official described the operation as “quick and complex,” killing Khashoggi within two hours of his arrival at the consulate. The agents “dismembered his body with a bone saw they brought for the purpose,” the official told The New York Times. “It’s like Pulp Fiction,” he added.
Khashoggi, a former Saudi royal court insider turned journalist, disappeared last Tuesday after entering his country’s consulate in Istanbul. His case has prompted calls for investigations from the kingdom’s staunchest Western allies, including the United States, where Khashoggi had applied for permanent residency.
“There’s some pretty bad stories about it. I do not like it,” said US President Donald Trump on Monday. Vice President Mike Pence tweeted that “the free world deserves answers,” comments echoed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a statement.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, France and the United Kingdom have also released statements on the case, with UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warning that the UK would “treat the incident seriously” if media reports proved correct.
A murder mystery?
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied Turkey’s account of the story, saying that Khashoggi left the embassy on the same day he arrived. In a statement to CNN on Monday, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US, Prince Khalid bin Salman, assailed the “various malicious leaks and grim rumors” that suggest Khashoggi was killed or detained by Saudi authorities. The ambassador — a brother of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — said the reports were “absolutely false and baseless.”
But Turkish officials have repeatedly suggested that Khashoggi has been killed. A friend of the journalist, Turan Kislakci, who is also the head of the Turkish-Arab Media Association, told CNN that Turkish officials called him and “offered their condolences and told us to be ready for a funeral.”
US officials reportedly also have evidence that Saudi Arabia made plans to apprehend Khashoggi. The Washington Post — the paper Khashoggi worked for — citing a person familiar with the information, said US intelligence intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing a plan to capture the journalist. The Saudis wanted to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and lay hands on him there, according to the newspaper’s source.
It was not clear whether the Saudis intended to arrest and interrogate Khashoggi or to kill him, or if the United States warned Khashoggi that he was a target, the source told The Washington Post.
Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, implored Trump “to help shed light” on his disappearance in an op-ed published by The Washington Post Tuesday.
Saudi authorities have not responded to CNN’s request for comment on the reports.
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