Turkish police ‘believe Saudi journalist murdered in consulate’

Jamal Khashoggi has not been seen since entering Istanbul building several days ago

People hold posters of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest  at the entrance to the Saudi Arabia consulate  in Istanbul, Turkey. Photograph: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

People hold posters of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest at the entrance to the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Photograph: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

 

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 of the two Turkish officials told Reuters.

The Turkish sources did not say how they believed the killing was carried out.

A Saudi source at the consulate denied Mr Khashoggi had been killed at the mission and said in a statement that the accusations were baseless.

The Saudi source said that a security team including Saudi investigators had arrived in Istanbul on Saturday to take part in the investigation into Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Saudi Arabia’s consul-general told Reuters earlier on Saturday that his country was helping search for Mr Khashoggi, and dismissed talk of his possible abduction.

Mr Khashoggi, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Washington for the past year fearing retribution for his criticism of Saudi policies, entered the consulate on Tuesday to secure documents for his forthcoming marriage, according to his fiancee, who waited outside. He has not been heard of since.

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.

A Turkish security source told Reuters that a group of 15 Saudi nationals, including some officials, had arrived in Istanbul in two planes and entered the consulate on the same day Mr Khashoggi was there, and later left the country.

The Turkish source said Turkish officials were trying to identify them. Turkey’s Anadolu news agency also reported that the group of Saudis were briefly at the consulate.

The journalist’s disappearance is likely to further deepen divisions between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Relations were already strained after Turkey sent troops to the Gulf state of Qatar last year in a show of support after its Gulf neighbours, including Saudi Arabia, imposed an embargo on Doha. – Reuters