Saudi govt planned Khashoggi hit: NYT | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 11, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:08 AM, October 11, 2018

Saudi govt planned Khashoggi hit: NYT

Report says the Saudi journalist was killed and dismembered in Istanbul consulate by hit squad deployed by top leadership

Top Saudi leaders deployed a 15-man hit squad to lay in wait for dissident writer and journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside Riyadh's consulate in Istanbul, The New York Times said in an explosive story.

Among the assassination team was a forensic expert who brought a bone saw to dismember Khashoggi's body after killing him, the Times reported on Tuesday, citing an unidentified "senior official" as saying.

Al Jazeera could not immediately verify the news report.

The hit squad finished the murder operation within two hours and departed Turkey for various countries, said the Times' source, citing information from "top Turkish officials".

"It is like Pulp Fiction," the senior US official was quoted as saying, referring to the graphically violent 1994 Hollywood movie by director Quentin Tarantino.

Accusations the Saudi leadership directly ordered the alleged assassination of Khashoggi will put further pressure on the United States and other allies to demand a transparent investigation, with possible serious repercussions to bilateral relations if it does not come to fruition.

Saudi officials have denied any involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance and alleged murder, saying he left the consulate on October 2, the day he entered the consulate.

Turkey's government hasn't provided evidence after a spate of anonymous allegations that the Saudi writer was killed inside the Istanbul consulate.

Daily Sabah, a Turkish newspaper with close ties to the government, named and published photos on Tuesday of the alleged 15-member Saudi assassination team accused of travelling to Istanbul on the day Khashoggi disappeared.

Turkish police were looking into two private aircraft that landed at Istanbul's Ataturk airport on October 2 at different times carrying the individuals of interest in the case.

The released CCTV footages showed some of the Saudis arriving in Istanbul after the first plane landed before 0030 GMT on October 2 and the men later checking into a hotel near the consulate. Aksam daily said some of the men went into the Saudi consulate before Khashoggi.

According to the images, a vehicle that went inside the consulate was then driven to the consul-general's residence nearby after 1200 GMT, two hours after Khashoggi had entered the mission.

Aksam newspaper's editor-in-chief Murat Kelkitlioglu speculated on 24 TV that it was "almost certain" that Khashoggi had been taken in the vehicle.

Local media on Tuesday reported on the possibility that Khashoggi was kidnapped and taken aboard one of the private planes.

Both planes later returned to Riyadh with one stopping in Dubai and the other in Egypt, pro-government Sabah daily said.

American Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Tuesday "everything today points to" Khashoggi's murder last week inside the Saudi consulate.

Corker told The Daily Beast his view was reaffirmed after viewing classified intelligence about the disappearance.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, the Washington Post - for whom Khashoggi wrote columns after fleeing Saudi Arabia over fears of retribution for his critical commentary - reported US intelligence intercepted communications of Saudi officials planning to abduct the prominent journalist.

"Saudis wanted to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and lay hands on him there," the Post quoted a person familiar with the information as saying.

It was not clear whether the Saudis intended to arrest and interrogate Khashoggi or to kill him - or if the US warned Khashoggi he was a target, the source told the newspaper.

Khashoggi vanished on October 2 after entering the consulate to obtain official documents ahead of his marriage to his Turkish fiancee.

Meanwhile, the fiancee of missing Khashoggi on Tuesday asked President Donald Trump to help uncover what happened to the Riyadh critic who she said had "been fighting for his principles".

Hatice Cengiz made the appeal in an opinion piece for The Washington Post newspaper.

Trump on Monday expressed concern about Khashoggi's case and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for a thorough investigation.

The US resident has written articles over the past year during his self-imposed exile that were critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Khashoggi, 59, has had a long career as a senior journalist in Saudi Arabia and also as an adviser to top officials.

But since the emergence of Prince bin Salman, 33, as the centre of power in the kingdom last year, Khashoggi has been openly critical of the monarchy.

He assailed the prince's reforms as hollow, accusing him of introducing a new Saudi era of "fear, intimidation, arrests and public shaming".

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