TEHRAN (Press Shia) – Top Turkish security officials have concluded that Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on orders from the highest levels of the royal court, a senior official said.
The official described a quick and complex operation in which Khashoggi was killed within two hours of his arrival at the consulate by a team of Saudi agents, who dismembered his body with a bone saw they brought for the purpose.
“It is like ‘Pulp Fiction,’” the official said on Tuesday, the New York Times reported.
Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have denied the allegations, insisting that Khashoggi left the consulate freely shortly after he arrived. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has demanded that the Saudis provide evidence proving their claim.
The security establishment concluded that Khashoggi’s killing was directed from the top because only the most senior Saudi leaders could order an operation of such scale and complexity, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to disclose confidential briefings.
Fifteen Saudi agents had arrived on two charter flights last Tuesday, the day Khashoggi disappeared, the official said.
All 15 left just a few hours later, and Turkey has now identified the roles that most or all of them held in the Saudi government or security services, the official said. One was an autopsy expert, presumably there to help dismember the body, the official said.
Erdogan was informed of the conclusions on Saturday, according to several people with knowledge of the briefings.
Another person briefed on the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity to disclose confidential details, told The Times on Saturday that Turkish intelligence had obtained a video of the killing, made by the Saudis to prove that it had occurred.
A commentator close to Erdogan’s government said so publicly on Tuesday.
“There is a video of the moment of him being killed,” Kemal Ozturk, a columnist in a pro-government newspaper and the former head of a semiofficial news agency, said in an interview on a pro-government television network, citing unnamed security officials.
Another senior Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss diplomatic strategy, said Ankara hoped that the international community would take the lead in challenging Saudi Arabia over the fate of Khashoggi.
The United Nations human rights office also called for Saudi Arabia and Turkey to conduct a thorough investigation and to make the results public.
“This is of serious concern, the apparent enforced disappearance of Khashoggi from the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul,” Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the human rights office, told reporters in Geneva.
Two other Turkish government officials confirmed the broad outlines of a report in Sabah detailing the movements of the Saudi team that arrived in Istanbul on the day of Khashoggi’s disappearance. Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly.
The newspaper said that two private Gulfstream IV planes belonging to a charter service that has often worked with the Saudi government, Sky Prime Aviation, took off from Riyadh on the morning of Oct. 2 carrying 15 passengers — all intelligence agents or government officials.
One plane landed at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport at 3:13 a.m. that day with nine passengers on board. They checked into two hotels near the consulate and booked rooms for three nights. But they collected their belongings later that day and took off in the same jet at 10:46 p.m., stopping in Dubai on the way back to Riyadh.
A second plane landed in Istanbul at 5:15 p.m. that day with six passengers. All went directly to the consulate and quickly returned to the airport; their plane took off barely an hour after it had arrived, at 6:20 p.m., the newspaper reported, stopping in Cairo as it returned to Riyadh.
Security camera footage showed Khashoggi entering the consulate shortly after 1 p.m. that day. Cengiz, his fiancée, waited outside, and she has said he never emerged.
Two and a half hours after he entered the facility, six vehicles with diplomatic license plates pulled out, carrying 15 Saudi officials and intelligence officers, Sabah reported.
Two other vehicles, including a black Mercedes Vito van with darkened windows, went from the consulate to the consul’s residence about 200 yards away. Turkish employees of the residence had unexpectedly been told not to report for work that day, the newspaper said.
Sabah reported, without naming its sources, that police investigators suspected that Khashoggi was in the van.
Friends of Khashoggi had planned to hold a funeral prayer for him on Tuesday, which had been expected to turn into a demonstration against Saudi Arabia. But his friends canceled those plans, and they could not be reached to explain their decision.