Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman reportedly ordered the operation to target Jamal Khashoggi, the New York Times reported yesterday.
According to US intelligence intercepts, Saudi officials were heard discussing a plan to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia from his home in the US and then detain him, the Washington Post reported. A senior Turkish official told the New York Times yesterday that his government has concluded that the “highest levels of the royal court” in Saudi Arabia ordered the alleged assassination of Khashoggi.
Turkey’s state-run broadcaster TRT released CCTV footage of what it called the 15-strong “assassination squad,” who were sent to Istanbul before dawn on the day that Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate and vanished. The footage shows the team driving up to the consulate in black vans, before departing Turkey later that night. Saudi Arabia has not commented on the video footage but has dismissed allegations it played a role in Khashoggi’s disappearance as “baseless”.
BBC reporter Mark Lowen tweeted that Maher Mutreb, who featured in one of the pictures of the Saudi team, was a colonel in Saudi intelligence and based at its embassy in London. The Turkish pro-government newspaper Daily Sabah has reported that the Turkish investigation is now focused on the possibility that Khashoggi was smuggled alive on to one of the planes that left Istanbul.
US President Donald Trump said the US is “demanding” answers from Saudi Arabia about Khashoggi and wants to bring his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, to the White House. He spoke with the Saudis about what he called a “bad situation,” but he did not disclose details.
A senior US official told The Guardian that “the Turks need to continue to be transparent about this. They have the Saudis in a delicate position here and know more than they’re letting on. This matters to the current administration. This guy can’t be allowed to vanish,” he added. Earlier, US officials warned that any harm done to Khashoggi will likely jeopardise its relations with the Kingdom.