Turkish security officials have said that Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and that his murder was ordered by the highest level of the royal court, according to the Irish Times.
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.
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.
So far it is unclear how the Turkish officials have reached their conclusion, and their assertion that the Saudi royal court ordered Khashoggi’s assassination could become problematic for both parties, the Times noted.
It would make it more difficult for the two governments to come up with a face-saving story blaming Khashoggi’s disappearance on some third party, on rogue elements of the Saudi security forces, or on an accident during an interrogation that went wrong.
Turkish officials have left things murky enough – speaking on condition of anonymity and refusing to publicly disclose their evidence – that such possibilities cannot be ruled out. Some pro-government news outlets have reported that the police were still investigating the possibility that Khashoggi was abducted, not killed.
But as more than a week has passed since he was last seen, the possibility that he is alive has dwindled. 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.
According to Turkish officials, two charter flights carrying 15 Saudi agents landed at the Istanbul airport last Tuesday, the same day Khashoggi went missing, and all of them left just a few hours later.
On Wednesday, Turkish media outlets published CCTV footage of what they said was Saudi intelligence officers entering and leaving Turkey via Istanbul airport on October 2nd. The footage also shows vehicles driving up to the consulate.
Though some reports from the government-linked publication Sabah quoted unnamed officials as saying that police were looking into the possibility that Khashoggi was abducted rather than killed, the official who spoke of the journalist’s killing said those reports were wrong and likely due to limited information sharing among Turkish agencies.
The need to protect intelligence sources – which might include intercepted communications or human informers – also contributed to the government’s reluctance to reveal its evidence, the official said. That need for secrecy could also hamper any efforts to prosecute any Saudi agents involved.