Turkish authorities believe that prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who disappeared four days ago after entering Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, was killed inside the consulate, two Turkish sources said on Saturday.
“The initial assessment of the Turkish police is that Mr. Khashoggi has been killed at the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul. We believe that the murder was premeditated and the body was subsequently moved out of the consulate,” one Turkish official told Reuters.
The sources did not say how they believed the killing was carried out. Saudi Arabia’s consul-general told Reuters on Saturday his country was helping search for Khashoggi, and dismissed talk of his possible abduction.
Khashoggi, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Washington for the past year fearing retribution for his critical views on Saudi policies, entered the consulate on Tuesday to secure documentation for his forthcoming marriage, according to his fiancee, who waited outside. He has not been heard of since. Khashoggi wrote for The Washington Post, which ran a blank column earlier this week to help publicize his disappearance.
Since then, Turkish and Saudi officials have offered conflicting accounts of his disappearance, with Ankara saying there was no evidence that he had left the diplomatic mission and Riyadh saying he exited the premises the same day.
Earlier on Saturday Turkish officials said prosecutors had begun investigating Khashoggi’s disappearance and a spokesman for President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party said authorities would uncover his whereabouts.
Specifically, the Post reported that Turkish investigators believe a 15-member team “came from Saudi Arabia. It was a preplanned murder,” according to a source.
In an interview with Bloomberg last week, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Khashoggi had left the consulate shortly after he arrived on Tuesday. Saudi officials have yet to provide any evidence for that assertion.
Saturday evening, the Post wrote that “the killing, if confirmed, would mark a stunning escalation of Saudi Arabia’s effort to silence dissent. Under direction from the crown prince, Saudi authorities have carried out hundreds of arrests under the banner of national security, rounding up clerics, business executives and even women’s rights advocates.
“But analysts said Khashoggi might have been considered especially dangerous by the Saudi leadership because he was not a longtime dissident, but rather a pillar of the Saudi establishment who was close to its ruling circles for decades, had worked as an editor at Saudi news outlets and had been an adviser to a former Saudi intelligence chief.”
Reacting to the news of his alleged murder, Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, said she “did not believe he has been killed”.
According to Cengiz, Khashoggi had visited the consulate to receive an official document for his marriage.
Turkey’s foreign ministry on Wednesday summoned Saudi Arabia’s ambassador over Khashoggi.
Khashoggi, who turns 60 on October 13, fled the country in September 2017, months after Prince Mohammed was appointed heir to the throne and amid a campaign that saw dozens of dissidents arrested, including intellectuals and Islamic preachers.
The journalist said he had been banned from writing in the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat, owned by Saudi prince Khaled bin Sultan al-Saud, over his defence of the Muslim Brotherhood which Riyadh has blacklisted as a terrorist organisation.
Khashoggi has also criticised Saudi Arabia’s role in Yemen, where Riyadh leads a military coalition fighting alongside the government in its war with Iran-backed rebels.
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